The late Dr. Sayers, nearly two years before his decease, asked back of me all our early correspondence, which I had affectionately preserved. Occasionally to retrace in memory the incidents and controversies of former years was of value to me, and I expressed a reluctance to resign it. He then stated, with solemnity, that he felt his health seriously declining; that he disliked the modern practice of printing unimportant remains of literary men, and that it would be a satisfaction for him personally to destroy all those of his manuscript effusions, to the publication of which he was become averse. I was willing to undertake, that no letters in my possession should appear in print; but he observed, that whatever remained extant, however safe while in the custody of friendship, was liable hereafter to be violated by the executors of another generation. Accordingly I sorted over my hoard of correspondence, and carried to him, in successive lots, all his own letters. The series began in 1775, and extended until 1790, since which year we have both been habitually resident in Norwich, and were seldom separated long enough to feel much the want of epistolary intercourse.
Dr. Sayers died on the 6th August, 1817, having bequeathed to me all his papers. Not even a selection from his own Letters has been found among them; and it is now only from vague recollection that I can give any account of his earlier intellectual pursuits. The manuscripts, however, include some unpublished poetry and prose carefully transcribed, as if for the press; and some notices plainly intended to facilitate a correctly dated biography; such as the register of his baptism, particulars of his family, tickets of his college lectures, a list of his minuter publications, and some other memorandums. But the bulk of these written remains consists of innumerable detached hints, on separate scraps of paper, which suggest variations, suppressions, and corrections in the received text, or notes, of his Poems and Disquisitions.
With these few vouchers before me, which shall as much as possible be employed in the words of Dr. Sayers, I proceed to record chiefly such circumstances of his life as, are connected with his literary history: he died so young, his acquaintance are still so mingled in the living world, that to attempt the admixture of much personal anecdote might seem an inroad on the sacredness of domestic privacy. For the purpose of a more convenient and orderly survey, I shall divide the history of his life into climacterics of seven years each.
1763 to 1770. Age 1 to 7.
In a memorandum superscribed, "Of my family," Dr. Sayers says: "My father's name was Francis Sayers; my mother's Anne Morris; both of Yarmouth, in Norfolk. She was a co-heiress. The arms and crest on my seal [reproduced] may not be quite correct. The Morris arms which I quarter are, I am told, those frequently borne by the Morrises of or near Chepstowe in Monmouthshire. The crest I bear of a dragon's head erased, is on the Sayer arms in St. Andrew's Church, Norwich, and is elsewhere on the Sayer arms. See Blomefield's History of Norfolk. The Sayer or Sayers Arms, which I bear, belong to some of that family at Pulham, in Norfolk. I presume that Sayer or Sayers of Great Yarmouth may be from those of Pulham. My correct name is Sayer, and I think my great grandfather bore that name. I quarter the arms of some of the Welsh Morrises (but not those, I believe, of Valentine Morris of Chepstowe) because I have heard, I hardly know where, but from some of my family, that my grandfather, John Morris, of Great Yarmouth, was from the Morrises of Chepstowe in Monmouthshire. If so, he might be from the same family as Valentine Morris (see Cox's Monmouthshire) who is said to have traced up his pedigree to Rys ap Tewdwr Maur, Prince of South Wales in 1077. See Heylin's Help to English History."
Whether the remoter links of this somewhat hypothetical genealogy are ever to be completed by antiquarian industry, the contiguous one at least is essential to biographic precision, and shall be copied out of a document furnished by the Rev. John Grose, from the register of the parish in which the parents of Dr. Sayers resided.
"Frank, the son of Francis Sayers and Ann his wife, was born in London, on the 3d March, 1763, and baptised on the following 3d April, at the church of Saint Margaret Pattens."
The house of Mr. Francis Sayers, I have been told, stood in Rood Lane; but in the summer he occupied a villa near, at East Ham. My father, who knew him while a bachelor, described him as a man of gaiety, wit, and talent, fond of singing a good song, and of prolonging to a late hour the pleasures of the evening-table. There are hereditary features of mind as well as body, organic tendencies to given ideas and sympathies: many a time after dinner my father has remarked in my hearing, how much Dr. Sayers put him in mind of his old companion, by a cordial hilarity and communicative flow of soul, which diffused the comfort it enjoyed.
Mr. Sayers was a man of fine person but of slender patrimony, and was supposed to have been a more welcome suitor to Miss Morris than to her parents. Shortly before the marriage he established himself in London, according to my father, as an insurance broker, and superintended shipping concerns for his Yarmouth connections.
In the inscription drawn up by Dr. Sayers for his mother's tombstone, she is designated as the "widow of Francis Sayers, merchant, of London;" but the word merchant is cross-lined with a pen, as superfluous, I presume, not as incorrect. Mr. Sayers was usually called Frank by his associates, and therefore named his son so, whose birth he did not survive many months.
The widow Sayers, not being left in easy circumstances, returned during the winter of 1764 to Yarmouth, with her infant child, and went to reside in Friars' Lane, at the house of her father, Mr. John Morris. It was a stately old-fashioned mansion, surrounding three sides of a gloomy court. The hall was floored with checquered marble, the large parlour was wainscotted with cedar, and a spacious staircase of shallow steps led up to the drawing room, which was a long narrow gallery including seven windows. This building, so like the palaces of chivalrous romance, was probably not without its effect in impressing the young poet's imagination with a taste for the lofty, the beautiful, and the antique. He was at home therein. Comic poets and artists have usually been low-born, and accustomed to the world in its undress; but those, who have excelled in sublime composition, have mostly originated amid the statelier monuments of art and nature.
The intense affection of Mrs. Sayers for her only child soon extended to the grandfather and grandmother. All the household were alternately intent on amusing his leisure, or assisting his elementary instruction. A Flemish folding screen, covered with gilt leather, inclosed a private nook round the chimney, in which the family sat when by themselves, and here were given the first lessons in spelling and reading. Dr. Sayers always recollected., affectionately, the snug niche within this screen; and thirty years afterwards provided a similar apparatus in his Norwich sitting-room.
When the females had carried as far as they thought fit the instruction of little Frank, and his grandfather had set him a few copies, he was put to school under the Rev. John Whitesides, a man of adequate learning and sense, but sadly given to hypocondriasis. I deem it unwise to let children be much with such persons. An organic mimesis of their attitudes of body and countenance, of their tones of voice and muter moanings, insensibly comes on, and with it arises in the child's mind, when unoccupied, a habit of indulging the melancholy trains of idea called up by such exterior expression. Low spirits are certainly in some degree contagious. Mr. Whitesides wrote verses: those which were found in his pocket after his unfortunate death, have been preserved in the Monthly Magazine, vol. LXVI p. 47: they were early read by Dr. Sayers, and were remembered by him with perturbation during his last illness.
1771 to 1777. Age 8 to 14.
In 1773, young Sayers was removed from the day-school at Yarmouth to a boarding school at North-Walsham, where he continued Latin and began Greek, under the superintendence of the Rev. John Price Jones. Among his school-fellows there was Horatio Nelson, afterwards so celebrated a naval commander: they were not intimate; a disparity of five years tended, no doubt, to keep them at a distance from each other.
The Rev. Rochemont Barbauld, having accepted the pastorship of a dissenting congregation at Palgrave, in Suffolk, determined to open a boarding school there; he took a house previously occupied by the celebrated antiquary, Mr. Thomas Martin, and in the summer of 1774 brought his bride Laetitia (born Aikin) to this residence. Among their first eight scholars were Sayers and myself. The same single-bedded room was allotted to us both; we were disciplined in the same classes; we stayed together at Palgrave three years; and there began that "early and uninterrupted friendship," which has strown in my way so many valuable and delightful moments, and the record of which (see the Dedication to the Poems) constitutes the dearest and proudest trophy of my life. Sayers was two years and a half older than myself; this is much, at that age: he was my protector, my helper, my model; a feeling of gratitude, of deference, of admiration, accompanied my attachment from its commencement, and still, I hope, marks the attitude in which I bend over his urn.
During the summer vacation of 1775, Sayers addressed to me a rimed invitation to pass with him at Yarmouth a part of the holidays. This I believe to have been his first poetical attempt; it was modelled apparently, in point of diction, on some verses written by his cousin, Mr. James Sayers. Until lately the letter was in my possession; it was remarkable for ease and grace of versification; I cautioned Dr. Sayers against destroying it, when I gave it up to him; but he was inexorable, and it has disappeared.
At Palgrave school it was customary for the boys to perform a play shortly before the vacation. In the Tempest, Sayers had the part of Prospero; in the Siege of Damascus, of Caled; in Henry the Fourth, of the King; and in Julius Caesar of Mark Anthony. In this last tragedy particularly, he shone greatly beyond all the other juvenile players: his unfaultering memory, and the exquisite beauty and pathos of his recitation, were warmly applauded and deservedly admired. Indeed Dr. Sayers was throughout life one of the finest readers I ever heard: expression of every kind was at his command; his own emotion was always transitive, yet given with that subdued grace which is the expedient distinction between lecture and declamation.
Among the instructions bestowed at Palgrave, Dr. Sayers has repeatedly observed to me, that he most valued the lessons of English composition superintended by Mrs. Barbauld. On Wednesdays and Saturdays the boys were called in separate classes to her apartment: she read a fable, a short story, or a moral essay, to them aloud, and then sent them back into the schoolroom to write it out on the slates in their own words. Each exercise was separately overlooked by her; the faults of grammar were obliterated, the vulgarisms were chastised, the idle epithets were cancelled, and a distinct reason was always assigned for every correction; so that the arts of enditing and of criticising were in some degree learnt together. Many a lad from the great schools, who excels in Latin and Greek, cannot write properly a vernacular letter, for want of some such discipline.
The school-boys at Palgrave had rival factions of Norwichians and Yarmouthians; but Sayers, though resident among the latter party, always piqued himself on being born in the metropolis, and wrote his name in his favourite books, F. Sayers, Londinensis, a practice which he continued in maturer life. He surpassed not only in the school-room, but in the play-ground, at trap-ball for instance; and he swam well. He was universally beloved: among the enduring acquaintances formed by him at Palgrave, it may be allowed to specify Mr. Joseph Chamberlin Carter, Mr. Serjeant Firth, and myself, as they are severally mentioned in his will.
1778 to 1784. Age 15 to 21.
Mr. Morris withdrew his grandson from school Soon after fourteen, and placed him, during the following winter, in the counting house of William Manning, Esq. an eminent general merchant, then of Yarmouth. About nine months after, in October, 1778, Mr. Morris died, leaving to the mother, and to Mr. Manning, the guardianship of his grandson, to whom he had bequeathed an estate at Pakefield of about one hundred and thirty acres. A mural monument was erected in the south aisle of Yarmouth church, beside his grave, and is thus inscribed
To the Memory of
who departed this life the 27th October, 1778,
aged 72 years: also of
Ann, his exemplary wife,
who died 23d October, 1774, aged 68.
This monument is erected,
(as a just tribute of filial piety and gratitude)
by their affectionate grandson.
The signature F. Sayers was originally affixed at the foot of the epitaph; but it has been since effaced, in consequence of a request to that effect, transmitted, I believe, to Dawson Turner, Esq. by Dr. Sayers. An ornamental trophy at foot in basso relievo, executed by a sculptor of the name of Cufaud, exhibits a scroll, on which are musical notes, and the following words from a hymn of Watts:
Hark from the tombs a doleful sound!
My ears attend the cry:
"Ye living men come view the ground,
Where you must shortly lie."
That spirit of principle, of solicitous gratitude, which distinguished every part of the life of Dr. Sayers, is already to be traced in this first act of his early independence.
The occupations of the counting-room were not pleasing to young Sayers: he acquired there, however, a habit rare among literary men, and which he retained throughout life, that of keeping his minutest accounts with mercantile punctuality. It was a grievance to him at the last, when paralysis had shaken his hand, that he could no longer put down his marketings, and post his household expenses. How long he continued with Mr. Manning I have not been able exactly to ascertain; but I can perceive that literary and philosophic pursuits were already engrossing his leisure, and progressively superseding the ledger and the envoice-book. A water-colour drawing of the year 1780 exists in the possession of Walter Worth, Esq. of Norwich, in which young Sayers is represented with an electric machine, and with inverted cylinders of gas, as characteristic of his favourite employments. The then recent discoveries of Dr. Priestley, concerning the variety of acriform fluids, had given a fashion to such experimental philosophy.
One reason of my knowing little concerning this period of the life of Dr. Sayers is, that I was sent to the Continent on leaving school, and was absent three years (1780, 1781, and 1782) bating an interval of two months, which I came to pass at home. Some letters we interchanged during my absence, but not many: the shifting residence of a traveller is unfavourable to orderly epistolary intercourse. I recollect, however, that Sayers had acquired a share in a sailing boat, of which he understood the management, and that he once sent me, in return for a letter from Venice about a regatta, a more animated description of a water-frolic at home.
Annually in July the Mayors of Norwich and Yarmouth meet in their state-barges on the river Yare, at Hardley-Cross, which separates their respective jurisdictions, and in the afternoon fall down into Breydon. This is a broad expanse of water, which receives three tributary streams, the Waveney, the Yare, and the Bure. All the many pleasure-boats kept on these rivers assemble; the commercial craft is in requisition to stow spectators, to waft music, to vend refreshments: such of the shipping, as ascends above the Yarmouth drawbridge, is moored within ken; there are sailing matches, rowing matches, and spontaneous evolutions of vessels of all sorts, a dance of ships, their streamers flying and their canvas spread. It is a fair afloat, where the voice of revelry resounds from every gliding tent. And when the tide begins to fall, and to condense this various fleet into the narrower waters, and the bridge and quays and balconies and windows of Yarmouth are thronged with innumerable spectators — and boys have climbed the masts and rigging of the moored ships, adding to the crowd on shore a rocking crowd above — and the gathering boats mingle their separate concerts in one chorus of jollity — and guns fire — and loyalty and liberty shout with rival glee — and the setting sun inflames the whole lake — the scene becomes surpasssingly impressive, exhilarating and magnificent. I have since attended this show, and agree with Dr. Sayers in thinking that the "narrow waters," (such is the technical designation of the festival) afford "one of the fine aquatic spectacles of the world."
On my return from the continent, Mrs. Sayers had sold the house in Friars' Lane, with its extensive mercantile appurtenances, her son having relinquished all thoughts of commerce; and she was come to reside at Thorpe, near Norwich, in which city both her sisters were previously established. Mr. F. Sayers had placed himself at Oulton, in Suffolk, with a skilful agriculturist, named Rix, in order to learn farming; his plan then being to occupy his own estate at Pakefield. During this rural sojourn, Mr. Sayers became much acquainted with his neighbour Camant Money, Esq. of Somerley, a gentleman distinguished for acuteness of intellect, for the early adoption of improved agricultural processes, and for public-spirited exertions in the management of parochial concerns; they angled together, they shot together, they dined together, and Dr. Sayers long remembered with interest the hospitality and conversation of Mr. Money.
Whether the scheme of farming had been adopted as the shortest cut to that practical independence, which might facilitate the realization of some matrimonial project, is now of little moment. Such rumours circulated, and such things happen at nineteen. In 1783, however, all thoughts of farming were abandoned, and Mr. Sayers came to reside with his mother at Thorpe.
It was now that our friendship became truly intense. In his society was always found both instruction and delight; at this time I first fancied my society was become of value to him. I could describe Paris, and, what he more delighted to hear about, Rome and Naples. The literature of Germany, then almost unknown in England, I had pervasively studied, and was eager to display; and frequently I translated for his amusement such passages as appeared to me remarkable for singularity or beauty. We read the same English books in order to comment them when we met. My morning-walk was commonly directed to Thorpe, we prolonged the stroll together on the then uninclosed heath, and he frequently returned with me to Norwich, dined at my father's table, and took me back to tea with his mother. During the winter-season, he occupied at pleasure a bed-room in our attic story, when he wished to attend the Norwich theatre, or some evening party. Our family consisted of my father, my mother, myself, and of Mr. Casenave, my father's partner, a native of Bayonne, and a catholic. To him Sayers would sometimes read French, with a view to correct his pronunciation. In short, he was as dear to us all, as if he had been my brother, and was more familiarly at home with us, than in the statelier establishment of his uncle Alric.
Mr. Alric was a native of Geneva, who, when young, came to Norwich, as a foreign clerk, and accepted a partnership in the house of Messrs. Harveys, the merchant-manufacturers, by whom he had been originally engaged. In this connection he acquired considerable property, married a younger sister of Mrs. Sayers, and, having no children, was retired from business to live on the income of his capital. He had kept a club in early life with the brothers of the late Lord Chancellor Thurlow, and continued to cultivate the honourable acquaintance. In 1780, Mr. Alric had exerted himself to facilitate the return of Mr. John Thurlow, as member for Norwich, and was afterwards, if I err not, an executor to his will. The Rev. Thomas Thurlow, after his elevation to the bishopric of Lincoln, preserved a recollection of these ties, and wrote to Mr. Alric, that, if he had any relation or friend in the church, he might nominate to some living, I forget the name of the parish, which was then become vacant. Mr. Alric offered this benefice to his nephew Sayers.
My friend would have liked the clerical profession, and was adapted for it: but he had been brought up among dissidents, was in the habit of accompanying his mother to the Octagon, an unitarian chapel in Norwich, and had at that time serious objections to the articles of faith, and liturgic services, of the Anglican church. He was not formed to hesitate between principle and prudence. He declined the proffered patronage. Bred among unitarians, factiously attached to the writings of Dr. Priestley, and not unread in those of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Lessing, I had still stronger prejudices than himself against the church; and my conversation no doubt uniformly tended to corroborate his disinterested decision. I have since lamented it. As his opinions were eventually to hitch into the rut of orthodoxy, it would have been fortunate if they had done so while in the road to preferment. The addition of three hundred a year to his then narrow income, would have enabled him to marry conveniently, and would thus have surrounded his latter years with higher tendernesses of domestic comfort. The praise of principle must always remain to him; but when those opinions give way, to which sacrifices have been made, virtue itself entails a something of remorse.
In October, 1783, Mr. F. Sayers, went to Edinburgh, as a general student, and boarded in the same house with Mr. Lubbock, afterwards Dr. Lubbock, of Norwich. I find among his papers, a ticket for lectures on Natural Philosophy, dated 1784, and signed with the initials J. R. — Rutherforth, I presume. The lectures of professor Hope on Botany, were also attended by him at this period; the ticket is extant; and a manuscript summary of the science remains, which he had drawn up with technical conciseness, as a help to the memory. He, moreover, allotted regular hours to classical studies; and I strongly suspect a ticket of Mr. Dugald Steward, to have been mislaid; because I have repeatedly heard comments on the delivery of that elegant lecturer made in conversation by Dr. Sayers; and the allusion to this course in one of his tracts (vol. II. p. 420) renders the fact of his attending it, though not the date, nearly indubitable.
1785 to 1791. Age 22 to 28.
After the midsummer of 1784, Mr. Sayers returned to his mother's house at Thorpe, having now attained his majority. At Edinburgh he had determined on adopting the medical profession; but, finding the income of his estate barely adequate to the expense of studying there, he determined to sell his farm, and to vest the proceeds in the funds, which, after a prudent delay, was accomplished satisfactorily.
This was a season of civic ferment. In our walks indeed Sayers and I seldom talked politics; but often at my father's table, who was active in elections, hospitable to partisans, and an adherent of the Coalition; we two, on the contrary, were agreed to contend for Pitt and Parliamentary Reform. Yet in this our sympathy there was not entire concord: we had entered a common path from different quarters: a zealot of the rights of the people, I was content with any administration which would undertake to to carry them into effect: Sayers was more attached to the crown, and though willing, under its shelter, to welcome every improvement which seemed a natural evolvement of the Constitution, he was not friendly to any attempt at inserting the graft from without.
Mr. Windham at this time came frequently to Norwich, and, when his visits had electioneering purposes, slept occasionally at our house, where he saw and argued with Sayers, enquired his destination, and observed to my father, that with so fine a person, and so fine an intellect, that young man would, in any professional line, become speedily an ornament to his country.
At the close of the year 1784, Mr. F. Sayers went to London, and there began his preparation for the medical profession, by attending the Lectures on Anatomy, conducted by Mr. Cruickshank and Mr. Baillie. This ticket is dated January, 4th 1785, and numbered 96: there is also a ticket of the subsequent session for Mr. John Hunter's Lectures on Surgery, dated January, 1786, and numbered 53.
During the summer of 1785, I visited London, and was introduced by my friend at a house whence he derived much of his social comforts, that of his cousin, James Sayers, Esq. a man of exalted society, then in the zenith of celebrity. The satirical wit of his pen and of his pencil I could always admire, if not enjoy: a lively ballad concerning the recent Norfolk election, still vibrates in my memory: and Karlo Khan's triumphal entry into Leadenhall Street, is perhaps the most happily imagined of any political caricature print at that time in circulation.
After a stay in Norfolk, which terminated about Michaelmas, 1786, Mr. F. Sayers went a second time to Edinburgh, where he continued until August, 1788, occupied chiefly in the study of medicine. The tickets for Monro's Lectures on Anatomy and Surgery, for Dr. Black's Lectures on Chemistry, and for Dr. Cullen's Lectures or, the Practice of Medicine, are all dated 25th October, 1786; on which day also were paid the yearly dues to the Upper Janitor and Macer of the University of Edinburgh. During the ensuing November, Mr. F. Sayers joined those students who attended Dr. Brown's extra-official course of Lectures on the Theory of Medicine; and in December he became an annual subscriber to the Academic Library.
In the summer of 1787, I went to Edinburgh; Sayers soon imparted to me his own warm admiration of the place; he compared its site with the ground-plan of Athens, called its castle, the Acropolis, its great church the Parthenon, and its port the Piraeus; he pointed out to me in turn, the sublime, the beautiful, and the romantic features of this magnificent city — the High-street, the long and the broad, which, with the width of a marketplace, is darkened into the likeness of a lane, by the colossal elevation of the bordering buildings, piled seemingly by a people of giants — the new town with its white and trim elegant modern edifices — the bridges, which, like aqueducts of antiquity, carry from hill to hill an endless stream of people — and that vast magical prospect of mingled edifice, wood and water, which bursts at so many stations on the wanderer. We together examined, in Holy Rood House, the apartments, which had witnessed the adventures of Mary Queen of Scots; we attended the lecture-rooms of science; and walked in a pilgrimage, then sympathetic, to the sepulchre of Hume. Our evenings were divided between the play-house, where we saw Mrs. Siddons in Lady Randolph, and supper-parties of the students, who sometimes received us at their lodgings, and sometimes met us at Scrimgeour's oyster-cellar.
Among the companions of Mr. Sayers, I especially recollect our Palgrave school-fellow, William Lord Daer, Mr. Joseph Cappe, afterwards Dr. Cappe, of York, Mr. Davy, now Dr. Davy, and Master of Caius College, Cambridge, and Mr. Mackintosh, now with the title of Sir James Mackintosh, the brightest ornament of the British House of Commons. A copy of Milton's prose works "the gift of James Mackintosh to his friend Sayers," remains in the library belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Norwich, and is usually shown to strangers. Hero-worship is the natural religion of taste; and such monuments of the friendship of the excellent are approached with the veneration of sacred reliques. This college-friendship acquired additional strength when Mr. Mackintosh attached himself to the Norfolk circuit.
After passing about ten days in Edinburgh, with my friend, we undertook together the smaller tour of the Highlands, in a one-horse chaise, which we drove alternately. Crossing the Queen's ferry, we proceeded to Perth; admired the picturesque banks of the Tay, and the groves of Dunkeld, still in their vernal beauty, and spent afloat on Loch Tay a shiny morning of visual rapture. At lake Lomond we were not equally fortunate; mists veiled the mountain-summit, and disappointed our intended ascent. In our vehicle we had brought a copy of Ossian, the genuineness of whose poems we both at that time admitted; and we endeavoured, especially, during this drizzly morning, to associate his descriptions with locality, but to little effect. It is difficult, Sayers observed, to become persuaded that Homer can have been blind when he wrote, but it is not difficult to believe so of Ossian. At Glasgow, we made a halt, another at Stirling, lastly at the Carron foundery; and thence returned to Edinburgh, where we separated.
I came home deeply struck with the palmary state of mind which Sayers was attaining: his intellectual stature had acquired a grace and majesty of growth truly impressive. He knew nothing by halves, and he had selected for study the noblest departments of human investigation. His memory was enriched with those facts of science, which it behooves the philosopher to know, in Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Anatomy, and Physiology. His imagination, always familiar with our best native writers, was now more classically adorned, and more exquisitely polished, by the perusal in their original languages of the chosen remains of Roman and Greek excellence. His judgment was sharpened by an extensive comparison of the great historians and orators of antiquity; and by so pervasive an examination of the philosophic writers, that he had projected a history of metaphysical literature.
Milton and Gray remained the favourite poets with him; he had pocket-editions of them, and kept them at his fingers ends. He also read much in Lucretius. Among the English philosophers, his companions were Hume at this time, Berkeley and Hartley more lastingly; with Hobbes he was not familiar, and valued Locke lower than is usual. As a form of accompanying his researches, he recommended to me the first volume of Lord Monboddo's Ancient Metaphysics, which assisted to prepare his own orthodoxy, and Stanley's Analysis of the Hypotyposes, included in the Lives of the Philosophers.
We corresponded assiduously about these things; he appeared to me at this time decidedly the bolder theologian of the two, a relation which was afterwards to be reversed. I wish I could quote from his letters various critical appreciations, expressed with that luminous simplicity, and attic urbanity, which characterized his style of writing. Of Dr. Brown's theory, not practice, of medicine he thought favourably; and observed to me, there was great merit in thus banishing jargon and mystical language from the schools, and in accustoming young men to understand what they talked about.
In November, 1787, Mr. Sayers took out a ticket for professor Dalzel's Greek Class, which he attended with sedulous regularity. For useful purposes he had already greek enough, and could read without the help of an interpretation Thucydides and Aristophanes; but here he became ambitious of attaining in greek literature that degree of critical skill, which is reached only by a few of the learned in each of the European nations, and seldom even by them, unless the employment of school-keeping perpetuates application during a series of years. For greek, however, he formed a disinterested passion, and consecrated to it his vigils so perseveringly, that his health was much impaired for want of air, exercise, and relaxation.
He had also undertaken to attend at the Royal Infirmary, the Clinical Lectures conducted by Mr. W. Ramsay and Mr. Archibald Hope, and for several months went on with this course of practical information. But his naturally quick sensibility, morbidly increased perhaps by the consequences of intense study, beheld the spectacle of pain and woe, with a sympathy so acute, that he more than once fainted by the bedside to which he should have carried the arts of relief, and was at length led to desist from this plan of medical instruction. The dissecting-rooms of London had shaken his nerves; but the curiosity of science then overcame his trepidity: now that he had to witness operations on sensitive and living beings, he felt unequal to the distressing task. A result of this experience was, that he began to think himself unfit for the medical profession; and, instead of inuring himself by slow degrees to bear the presence of suffering, he withdrew altogether from the wards of the hospital. Prudential alarms respecting his future circumstances in life now took hold of his imagination, and painted his approaching prospects with hues of blight and gloom. He wrote melancholy letters home; and, before the session had terminated, was almost in a state of hypochondriasis.
Mrs. Sayers now determined to go and see her son. I accompanied her to Edinburgh. It was in May, 1788, that we set off, and early in June that we had arranged with him to quit college, and to undertake in our way home a tour among the lakes of Cumberland. This journey was in a high degree efficacious; concatenations of desponding ideas progressively gave way to the scenery of nature, and the soothings of affection. The day we spent on lake Keswick seemed again to be enjoyed by him with all the glee of youth and feeling: it endeared the locality: and an attempt was made on this occasion to describe the contiguous scenery, which has been preserved at the beginning of the Annual Anthology. As yet, however, the Greata was not become a classical stream by the residence of the poet of Thalaba and Roderic. We returned to Norwich cheered and refreshed: summer and society completed the convalescence: and, after the necessary deliberative conversations with his family and friends, Mr. Sayers had determined to set off in the autumn for Leyden, there to graduate, and afterwards to settle, rather in a literary than a professional capacity, at Norwich.
Late in the year, probably in November, he embarked at Harwich for Helvoetsluys, and stationed himself at Leyden; but finding that the discipline of this college required a longer stay previous to graduation than he was disposed to allot, he procured, early in 1789, a diploma from the less celebrated and less scrupulous university of Hardervyck. The subject of his Thesis was the physical effect of the Passions; it was printed at Leyden by Mr. Murray, a Scotch bookseller there, to whom he had letters of introduction, and on his return presentation-copies were distributed among his friends; but whether he became dissatisfied with the medical argument, or with the latinity of the work, or with some intimations of sentiment inconsistent with his ultimate convictions, he at a later period destroyed all the remaining copies of this thesis in his possession, even that which had been interleaved for his own private use: my copy was asked back, and hence I am unable to quote the title with bibliographic precision.
After graduation, Dr. Sayers undertook the tour of Holland, Flanders, and the north of France: he saw Rotterdam and the Hague, Harlaem and Amsterdam, proceeded through Antwerp to Brussels, and thence through Lille to Paris. His letters dwelt principally on the specimens of gothic architecture which occurred along his route, such as the cathedral of Antwerp, the church of St. Gudule at Brussels, the abbey of St. Amand, the cathedral of Amiens, that of Notre Dame at Paris, the steeple of St. Jacques, or the still more beautiful Sainte Chapelle. Previous to a systematic survey of the french metropolis, Dr. Sayers placed himself for a month in the neighbouring village of Clignancourt, as a boarder in a private family, wishing to familiarize himself with french conversation, before he attempted to visit the theatres, and to mingle in literary society; he had some medical introductions, but I do not recollect to whom among the men of letters he was most indebted for the urbanities of reception. On the continent Dr. Sayers not only acquired the ready and exact use of the french language which was then considered as the key to the chief treasury of modern polite literature; he was formed to reap the other advantages of foreign, travel. Many prejudices, moral, political, and religious, grow out of our education in a country, divided from the whole world no less by institution than by nature. These prejudices abate more rapidly by contrast than by contradiction; and the necessity, while abroad, of bending to rival peculiarities, produces and leaves behind a habit of liberal tolerance. The various society, the frequent and sudden revolutions of company and acquaintance, the alert, short-lived and inquisitive intimacies of the traveller, usually confer on the manners a polish, a facility, an humanization, a power of pleasing speedily, which avails throughout life in conciliating complacence. By viewing the new, the beautiful, and the great, by examining what strikes most in the scenery of nature, in the galleries of art, in the monuments of architecture, in the manners of mankind, the memory becomes stocked with vivid pictures and interesting recollections adapted alike to cheer solitude and to amuse society. Few of the choicer models in art and in literature can originate with any particular country; yet without a comprehensive comparison of excellence, that highest idea of perfection is seldom formed in the mind, which is the surest prompter to the love of fame, and the best guide to its attainment. In this correction and embellishment of the internal standard of perfection consists perhaps the highest privilege of the travelled man.
The moral habits of Dr. Sayers, whenever I have had the opportunity of observing them, inclined to the stricter side of regularity; yet in the sonnet to Religion (vol. I. p. 150) he alludes to some juvenile aberrations from that truly christian purity, which he ultimately exacted of himself; and probably they are to be dated at this period.
During his stay in France, Mrs. Sayers quitted Thorpe, and hired a house in Norwich, opposite to the west end of the church of St. Michael at Plea. This dwelling she began to occupy at Michaelmas, 1789, and was shortly after joined by her son, who thenceforth became uninterruptedly resident in Norwich.
Soon after his return he took some lessons of me in German. We construed together, I forget in what order, beside some other pieces which have left no traces in his writings, the Proserpina of Goethe, the Luise of Voss, portions of the chorus-dramas of Klopstock, some odes of Stolberg, and the ballad which he versified under the title of Sir Egwin, and which constitutes one of the earliest of his extant metrical productions; if that may be called extant, which he deliberately omitted in the later editions of his works. He did not, however, persevere in the study of German language, beyond what was necessary to form a correct idea of it; nor was he a warm admirer of the literature; in this he anticipated the opinion of his country, which has received but coldly even the best translations from the German.
In what form of exertion to pursue celebrity was now his darling care. He would quote from Cowley:
What shall I do to be for ever known,
And make the age to come my own?
These meditations terminated in the resolution to undertake lyric dramas. A perusal of the greek tragedians, which he went through with agitated feeling, determined the form of his outline; Percy's Northern Antiquities supplied the costume and the colouring; and at the beginning of 1790, had been produced the first Dramatic Sketches of Northern Mythology. They form an imperishable monument of British poetry. Were it possible to teach how extraordinary men have become so, this would be the highest use of biography; the young artist can best profit by studying the method of composition of a great master. In the case of Dr. Sayers, I was admitted behind the curtain, saw his works as it were on the easel, first in the outline, then garishly shaded, and lastly with the blended and finished colouring. His first care was to round the fable, and every where to foresee his drift; the dialogue was then rapidly composed, and always the shortest cut taken to the purpose in view; the critical situations were afterwards raised into effect, and heightened into brilliance, by consulting analogous efforts of celebrated writers, with the intention of transplanting beauties of detail; and finally the lyrical ornaments, in which he mainly excelled, were inserted at every opportunity. Originally the Dramatic Sketches were only three in number, of which Moina was written the first, and Frea the last, although a different arrangement has been adopted in printing them. A few words will be proper concerning each of the pieces in the chronologic order of their production.
Moina is a tragedy in five acts of peculiarly simple structure. The heroine, a Celt, captured by the Saxon Harold, is by right of conquest become his wife. Her lover, Carril, arrives in disguise at the castle, urges her flight, and flatters her with the equivocal prediction of a prophetess, that her husband is to fall in battle, and her sorrows are about to end. This indeed comes to pass. The corse of Harold is brought home for interment: Moina according to the Gothic custom, is buried with him; and Carril in despair throws himself from a rock.
The most striking portions of the dialogue are put into the mouth of Carril. The bardic song, in which he covertly relates his adventures (vol. I. p. 57.) may vie with any similar passage in Ossian. The visit to the prophetess (p. 69-72) considerably surpasses that analogous, but tediously protracted, scene in the sixth book of Lucan's Pharsalia, where the younger Pompey consults the sorceress Erichtho. It is true this classical model was consulted, and the
Nunquam nisi carmine factum.
has been recollected in describing the gothic cavern where also
No beam of light was seen to glimmer
Save that which rose from magic incantations—
and the "Verberat immotum vivo serpente cadaver" has evidently suggested "She seized a living snake and lash'd his limbs."
But the lyric ornaments of this poem constitute its highest claim to admiration. The dirges, or hearse-songs, as our Saxon forefathers called them, are perhaps the most masterly of the odes; their dissimilarity marks a creative invention; they display the fancy of Pindar, without his extravagance, and the feeling of Sophocles, without his tameness. Harold's death-song is a sublime and magnificent delineation of the imaginary hereafter of the rude warriors of the north. The elegy on the decease of Moina has the sweet, simple, affecting tenderness of oriental allegory. The following chorus, which consecrated the death of Carril, was selected by a German reviewer (in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, for August, 1791,) as the most beautiful and characteristic specimen of this exquisite and original poetry; I prefer other chorusses.
CHORUS OF BARDS.
When from the foe's bright spear
The soldier trembling turns,
When cold fear shakes his soul
And blasts his strength,
No more he'll hear the song of praise,
No more he'll tell his listening child.
The bloody tale of war;
The gloomy vale receives
His slow and sullen steps;
He hates the warriors eye,
He hates the maiden's look.
Then let shame his bosom fire,
Lead him to the lofty rock
And plunge him from the airy height,
To death below.
When the hero's giant form
With sickness droops;
When his broad and sinewy arm
Shrunk and trembling fails;
When that firm breast which dar'd the dart,
The sigh of languor heaves;
When those strong knees which rush'd to war,
Tottering sink beneath his weight;
When death has rais'd his clay-cold hand
To touch the warrior's heart,
Then let him drag his faltering limbs
To some high rock's outstretching cliff,
And from the airy summit plunge
To death below.
When from the aged father's arms
The child is torn,
Forlorn he wanders on the heath,
His white hair waving in the wind—
Forlorn he seeks the hill
His child has trod,
And wipes the failing tear;
Anguish gnaws his heart,
And slowly drags his frame
To Hela's halls.—
Haste, haste, and seek the lofty rock,
There from its airy summit plunge
To death below.
When o'er the stiff'ned corse
The lover bends,
And weeps his mistress dead,
Now clinging to her chilly breast,
Now pressing to his trembling lips
Her faded cheek;
So more her blue eyes tell
The tender tale,
No more her silver-sounding voice—
Shall murmur in his ear—
In speechless agony he hangs upon her—
Awake, awake, and from that form belov'd
Snatch thy distracted soul:
Haste, haste, and seek the lofty rock,
There from its airy summit plunge
To death below.
Yet this chorus, pathetic as it is, and adapted for its place, has been wholly suppressed in recent editions of the Dramatic Sketches; and suppressed, I have reason to believe, from excessive moral scrupulosity; lest the praise of heroic suicide should perhaps operate dangerously in common life, and prepare some hesitating sufferer for a rash and unhallowed act. Even the love of glory in this excellent man was willingly sacrificed to the love of virtue.
The great merit of Dr. Sayers' lyric poetry has in some degree resulted from a study of the principles of criticism; he had already at this period formed to himself a peculiar idea of the Ode, which, he afterwards, in a critique on the poetic character of Horace, explained in the following words:
"The Ode, like any other piece of poetical composition, is written with some determined end; and this end should be one. Whether a hero is to be praised, a mourner to be soothed, a virtue to be inculcated, or a vice to be reproved, the subject of the ode is single and defined. Of the great direction and purpose of the performance, therefore, the poet should never lose sight. An unconnected groupe of thoughts and images, however striking and affecting, form not a good ode. Whatever is introduced should tend evidently to the end which is in view; whatever is unconnected with this end is idle and ineffective, and spoils that wholeness which is essential to the excellence of the piece. Neither is it all-sufficient merely to unite the different passages, or portions, of the ode with the theme on which it is written: the poet must not stop here; the passages must also be united among themselves; the mind should glide with ease from one part to the next; the link between them should be plainly discernible, or the piece is a mere cento. Connection of component parts together with wholeness (if I may so express it) are essential to the perfection of the Ode."
At the time of editing the fourth edition of Moina, Dr. Sayers had half a mind to change the designation of the chorus; and in the list of dramatic personages to substitute the word Skald for the word Bard. For he was aware, and has indeed recorded the observation in a note to Starno (vol. I. p. 106) that although the latter term had been applied in Ossian, and by Klopstock, to designate generally any minstrel of the north; yet the title of Bard, being of Cimbric origin, ought in strictness to be confined to the Welsh Druids and Braints, who were a privileged order, and, in this, different from the Skalds of the Goths. He concluded, however, by observing, that the word Skald was as yet perhaps too strange to introduce into the poetry, where it might be thought to have a pedantic or ignoble sound.
Starno, in point of tragic dialogue, will probably be preferred to Moina, although the lyric passages are less dazzling. This hero is a Briton, the father of Daura, who has been captured by Saxon invaders. He vows to the Druids before battle to sacrifice his noblest prisoner on the altar of Hesus. This prisoner is Kelric, the lover of his Daura, her deliverer, her husband.
After becoming aware of her situation Daura thus speaks:
Ye once-lov'd halls, where oft I've heedless stray'd,
Cheer'd by a mother's smile; where oft my heart
Has leapt at sounds of joy, which echoed loud
Amid your vaulted domes. Ye once-lov'd halls,
Where from my father's limbs I oft have pluck'd
The dinted mail of fight, and silent thank'd
The god who sav'd him in the hour of peril—
Ye scenes of past delight — ah how I hate you!
Bought with the price of blood, the blood of him
I hold most dear. Now, now methinks I see
The fatal knife upreared — This hand shall — no
(Starno and Kelric enter.)
He lives, he lives, my father yet has spar'd
His daughter's life. If thou hast ever joy'd
To see me climbing round thy weary limbs,
If thou hast ever wept for Daura lost,
Save him who sav'd thy child; his life is twin'd
With mine, and one blow stabs us both. Oh hear me,
By all thy fondness for my infant prattle,
By all the love my riper years have shewn thee,
By my dead mother's shade—
Of the Greek tragedians Euripides is the most pathetic; yet it will not he easy to find in his lphigenia in Aulis, or in the Hecuba, where similar situations occur, a passage more beautiful and more affecting. The chorusses of Starno again, if compared with those of Caractacus, where the same local philosophy and mythology were to be employed, must decidedly be preferred for appropriate drift, for learnedness of costume and for poetry of idea.
The descent of Frea comes next in the chronologic order of composition. A word or two concerning the history of its origin.
Jann Ewald was born in 1742, within the Duchy of Sleswig. After serving in the army during the seven years war, he settled at Copenhagen, as an author, where he died in 1781. A personal friend of Klopstock, he imitated many works of that poet in the Danish dialect; and produced an original tragedy, or opera, entitled the Death of Balder, which is still acted with musical accompaniments on the theatres of Denmark. Of this mythologic drama I had brought home a German translation, the substance of which I communicated to Dr. Sayers, and we construed together several of the critical scenes. This Danish play suggested the Descent of Frea, which might be considered in some degree as a second part, or continuation, thereof. Balder, Thor, Hoder, Lok, Nanna, and the three Nornies, or fates, are the persons of this drama; the fall of Balder by Hoder's hand, through the malicious contrivance of Lok, is the subject of the poem; the destinies, like the witches in Macbeth, foretell the catastrophe darkly; and all the gods of Valhalla assemble to bewail it. There are some lyric passages, but they are sparingly interspersed; the chorus of Nornies and Walkyries, intervening but seldom. Ewald makes Nanna, not Frea, to be the beloved of Balder; which is comformable to tradition; and all his personages have a harsh rude greatness, which allies itself well with northern gothic nature, and which is imitated from delineations of Klopstock, but which contrasts utterly with the grecian elegance, polish, and correctness of the Sayersian drama.
In this, Frea, the goddess of beauty, descends to Hela, queen of the infernal regions, to solicit the release, of Balder "the lovely god," who had lost his life. The affecting elegy of Frea obtains from Hela the sentence
When all the gods of nature lave
With briny tears thy Balder's grave,
Then Balder I restore.
Frea returns full of comfort and hope to Valhalla, and addresses each of the gods with a magnificent hymn in praise of his exploits or attributes, and closes each address with
Say wilt thou drop the pitying tear
On youthful Balder's sable bier?
No one refuses but Lok, whom she approaches last, he denies the tear,
Lok ne'er will weep;
Let Hela keep
Her splendid prey.
Frea conjures the inexorable, by all the horrors in which imagination can suppose the god of death and hell to delight; but Lok invites all the curses of all the gods rather than drop the saving tear, and thus condemns Balder to eternal death.
"This short account, (says a German reviewer, whose analysis I am here abridging,) may give a weak idea of the boldness and peculiar sublimity of this composition. The poet had to choose between assailing by varied elegy the sensibility of the gods of Valhalla, or of addressing their divinities by the more appropriate flattery of hymns. He has wisely adopted the latter method, as the rapidity of action, so necessary to the unity of the whole, would otherwise with difficulty have been preserved; and as the conventional system of religion, which furnishes the machinery, would not so well have coalesced with any other method of composition. These seven hymns, if detached from the whole, would for the most part be masterpieces, especially the addresses to Odin, to Niord, to Surtur, and above all the second adjuration of Lok.
"The poem is somewhat reprehensible for departing from the received history of Balder. It was Nauna, not Frea, of whom he was fabled to be amorous. It was Hermode, his friend, who descended into hell to solicit his release. That Balder was god of the sun is assumed in the line 'The lord of splendor groans in Hela's halls' — but this is no doctrine of the Edda, and reposes merely on a wild conjecture of Percy, advanced in the note attached to the twelfth fable (Northern Antiquities, vol. II. p. 73). Mr. Graeter, the learned editor of Bragur, a magazine devoted to northern archaeology, further objects, Aeger was god of the sea, and Niord only of the winds."—
Notwithstanding these little blemishes, the Descent of Frea remains, with the single exception perhaps of Milton's Comus, the finest Masque extant in the English language: nor does any other seem better adapted for theatric representation. The poetry has every variety of form, and deserves to be set to music; the scenery offers moments for the most opposite splendors of decoration; and the mythological system employed would naturally suggest choral dances, at the end of the first act of Deuses, and at the end of the second act, of Elves; for these are the appropriate names of the terrific and lovely spirits of the Edda. About the midsummer of 1790, the Dramatic Sketches were before the public, and in the following October were noticed in the Monthly Review. Other periodical publications contributed to spread their celebrity. Some commendatory verses respecting them appeared in the Norfolk Chronicle, which were ascribed to Dr. Alderson, and began,
As Gray sublime, but not obscure,
As Mason, smooth, correct, and pure, &c.
In the Morning Chronicle a Petro-pindaric Ode attempted to play with the new Mythology; and some Bouts-rimes were banded about, which afterwards appeared in the Athenaeum — but as it is no longer usual to collect such commendatory verses, I confine myself to those noticed in Dr. Sayers' papers.
By the English public in general the Dramatic Sketches were received with gratitude and admiration, not with eagerness and enthusiasm. The mythology was at that period too strange for popularity; and, although the notes have progressively familiarized it and rendered the somewhat recondite allusions intelligible; yet the attachment to these compositions began among the more literate public, and has progressively and gradually penetrated the reading world at large. This is the best pledge for its endurance; it was so that the poems of Milton passed from select to national favor.
In Germany, where the early religion of the north had been more studied and was better known, the instantaneous reception of these poems was loud and warm.
"For many years, (said a writer in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung,) a poetical curse seems to have rested on England, which denied to the poets of that happy island the freedom of its other inhabitants. A conventual jingling, uniformity of thoughts, epithets, and rimes, composed the only worship bestowed on the Muse by her degenerate sons. The remembrance of their great predecessors, Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, and Pope, seemed to give not a glow, but a damp, to the genius of newer poets. If the acknowledged peculiarity of the national character imprinted an unborrowed cast of feeling on the productions of English genius, which was wanting to those of the French; these, however, were less liable to a stiff, heavy, cold, pomposity. In these Dramatic Sketches the curse seems at length dissolved; and posterity will bind the name of Sayers close to that of Gray, to whose muse his seems remarkably akin. A true poetic fire, happily guided by a knowledge and cultivation of the ancients, a chaste enthusiasm, breathes in these poems, as in the masterpieces of Gray, and the genius of the modern poet moves with freer step."
Two German translations of these poems speedily appeared; the one in blank verse by F. D. Graeter, to which good antiquarian notes were attached; and the other in rime by Dr. J. W. Neubeck, an elegant poet, known by an original work entitled the Health-Wells. The Dramatic Sketches had become an European classic, even before they were recognized as a national one.
Mrs. Sayers was not destined to live long enough "to rejoice in the fame of her son." She died early in 1790. Moina had been read to her from the manuscript during her last illness; but no other of the poems. I was present at the readings. On the occurrence of the words
Thou unseen power, when deep despair surrounds us,
When the dark night of woe o'ershades the soul,
Sudden thou shins't amid surrounding horrors,
The cloud is gone, and keenest joy bursts in
Upon the darkened mind.
Mrs. Sayers broke into loud sobbing; the poet could not continue; and the auditor partook their sacred sympathy. This arose not exclusively from the pathos of the passage, but because it was secretly applied to that recovery from gloomy despondence, which we had together witnessed at Keswick. It was the last time we three met; and this interview left a deep impression on Dr. Sayers. If religion is so natural to man, that, even in a work of fiction, the theopathetic affections must be ascribed to the rudest barbarian, it is indeed a revelation from heaven. Some such conviction, I think, was flashing across him, and he adopted it as a kind of engagement to a dying mother, thenceforth unremittingly to cultivate piety, and on his part never to unfit himself for their meeting again. Certainly from that time he no longer willingly discussed, as we had formerly done, the fundamental doctrines of faith, he avoided the perusal of sceptical writings, and endeavoured to discipline his mind to religion, by studiously impressing on his memory the best arguments of pious authors. I am the more confirmed in attributing to this incident a critical impression, as I find among the manuscripts of Dr. Sayers a short memorandum, which has recalled it to my recollection.
Dr. Sayers, however, was still a liberal christian, and friendly to a repeal of the corporation and test acts, which at this period were much discussed: but he blamed the dissenters for transferring to Mr. Fox the management of their application to Parliament. Pitt, said he, meant to have withdrawn the grievance as soon as he could convert the bishops; by making it an opposition question, you will postpone the redress for a generation.
To the abolition of the slave-trade Dr. Sayers was a zealous friend: he inserted some arguments against it in a Norwich newspaper, and also a recommendation to leave-off sugar. He wrote, or parodied, a song entitled the Dying Negro; which although set to music, has not been included among his collective poems, and may therefore expediently be inserted here:
THE DYING NEGRO.
O'er my toil-wither'd limbs sickly languors are shed,
And the dark mists of death on my eyelids are, spread
Before my last sufferings how gladly I bend!
For the strong arm of death is the arm of a friend.
Against the hot breezes hard struggles my breast,
Slow, slow, beats my heart, and I hasten to rest;
No more shall sharp anguish my faint bosom rend,
For the strong arm of death is the arm of a friend.
No more shall I sink in the deep-scorching air,
No more shall keen hunger my weak body tear;
No more on my limbs shall swift lashes descend,
For the strong arm of death is the arm of a friend.
Ye ruffians! who tore me from all I held dear,
Who mock'd at my wailings, and smil'd at my tear,
Now, now shall I 'scape, every suffering shall end,
For the strong arm of death is the arm of a friend.
Dr. Sayers, moreover, published in the newspaper, a letter on preserving bees in double skeps; and a recommendation to dispatch animals by cutting their spine, and also to kill eels and shell-fish so. All the humanities were floating in his mind; and his every leisure was willingly soothed by the endeavour to alleviate suffering.
During the summer of 1790, I went to Paris; and Dr. Sayers, in a letter addressed to me there, inserted a sonnet, which was printed in the second edition of his poems. He as yet thought favourably of the French Revolution, but the line, "And millions starting from a base repose," having afterwards become obnoxious to him, the sonnet was suppressed.
On my return I went to join him at Cromer, where a fragment entitled the Invitation, (vol. I. p. 233) was conceived, though not completed. It is the one of his poems which most displays an original observation of nature; for in general he made some work of poetic art his model, and was not much intent on the description of external scenery. What he read, not what he saw, mostly supplied his allusions.
About this time also was added to the increasing stock of his rhythmical productions the admirable monodrama, entitled Pandora, which is not only the finest poem of the kind in our language, but may be confronted with advantage against the Pygmalion of Rousseau, or even the Proserpina of Goethe, which last had served in some degree as a model.
Not long after the publication of this monologue, it happened to me to visit Mr. Barry, the painter, at his lodgings in London; he was then engaged on a picture representing the creation of Pandora, and feelingly lamented to me the not having seen Dr. Sayers' poem before he began his sketch, as he would entirely have accommodated the groupe of surrounding divinities to the expressed idea of the poet, conscious that, when great artists toil in unison, they acquire some of the celebrity they bestow.
In 1791, was executed the Ode to Aurora, a worthy companion for Collins' Ode to Evening, and the Fly, which Dr. Sayers considered as the most finished and perfect of all his minor productions; it resembles and vies with that ode to a Glow-worm, printed after Peter Pindar's Epistle to Bruce. Oswald, and some translations from the Greek and Latin Anthologies, continued to vary the poetic occupations of Dr. Sayers, until a second edition of the Dramatic Sketches became requisite, when these further exertions were inserted.
Previous to the appearance of that edition in 1792, the following sonnet was printed in the Gentleman's Magazine; and, as a manuscript copy, corrected by the author, occurs among the papers of Dr. Sayers, I infer it to have been his intention that it should be preserved.
Why is the harp, by Braga's finger strung
With the smooth gold of his Iduna's hair,
On on pale willow all neglected hung,
And vocal only to the transient air?
Round its sweet tones the listening Elves have clung,
What time they to the cooler brim repair
Of moonlight-brook, with flowery shades o'erswung,
To coil the glittering dance their summer-care—
Resume it, youth, nor on the mossy shore
Of smoothly-sliding Wensum loitering lie;
Gird on thy crown of bardal oak once more,
Nor leave it on the parching strand to dry;
Lo where the Nornie Skulda hovers nigh
To catch thy feeblest song, soon on wide wing to soar.
In this sonnet, which emanated from a contiguous observer, a sort of intimation occurs, that poetic composition was ceasing to be the favourite occupation of Dr. Sayers, which was but too true. A society called the Speculative had been founded at Norwich, in November, 1790. The members, originally twelve, although by various resignations and replacements more than double that number have belonged to the club, mere to assemble once a fortnight, and to drink tea alternately at each other's houses. At seven precisely the chair was taken by the host of the night, and every member in his turn produced and read some original paper, which was to be commented during the rest of the evening in extemporary debate. Dr. Enfield, the Rev. Peter Hansell, Dr. Lubbock Edw. Rigby Esq. (afterwards Dr. Rigby) Dr. Sayers, the Rev. Pendlebury Houghton, Mr. Francis Smith, Mr. W. Taylor, jun. John Browne Esq. the Rev. Geo. Smith, Benj. Hart Esq. (now Thorold) and the Rev. John Walker, were among the earlier members of this association. In quoting these names I observe the order in which their respective papers were delivered, and omit, as irrelevant to this biography, all those persons who became members after the secession of Dr. Sayers. His paper was read on the 12th January, 1791, and had for its title "in what does Beauty consist, and can any standard be, established by which the various degrees of beauty may be decided?"
Of the luminous reasoning, and classical style, which distinguished this essay, the reader may still judge; as it is preserved with little variation, and placed foremost in the volume of Disquisitions Metaphysical and Literary, published by Dr. Sayers, in 1793. At the sixteenth meeting of the Speculative Society, which was held on the 7th September, 1791, the resignation of Dr. Sayers was announced, and received with general regret; but his connexion with this institution, however short, had certainly contributed to direct his speculations and his applications rather to philosophy than poetry.
1792 to 1798. Age 29 to 35.
The house, in which Dr. Sayers had dwelt with his mother, recalled too frequently a painful reminiscence and an unavailing regret; it was besides noisy and public; he removed therefore, or retired, into the precincts of the cathedral, and occupied in the Lower Close, an old-fashioned mansion, admired by antiquaries as an unaltered specimen of the early style of English building. In this singular but adapted residence he spent all the rest of his days. From veneration for his memory, it was drawn by Mr. Peter Thompson, a young architect, lately resident in Norwich, and engraved by Mr. Charles Edwards, the author of Hofer and other poems, who cultivates the graphic art for amusement, and is now established as a solicitor at Cambridge. To the joint kindness of these two gentlemen I am indebted for the annexed vignette, which represents the house of Dr. Sayers, as it appeared while he lived there; it has since been modernized.
By adopting a residence within the precincts of the cathedral, Dr. Sayers found himself surrounded with a new and to him a most agreeable neighbourhood. The classical acquirements, the gentlemanly manners, the respectable morality, the liberal leisure, so general among the English clergy, fitted them for his companions, and they became his favourite society. Of the new neighbours with whom he formed a permanent acquaintance, it may he allowed surely to name the Rev. P. Whittingham, Rev. C. J. Smyth, Rev. C. Millard, Rev. Dr. Sutton, Rev. O. T. Linley, Rev. Dr. Pretyman, and Rev. T. F. Middleton, as they are severally inscribed in his will. With Dr. Middleton, the late Bishop of Calcutta, he especially became intimate, resumed with sympathetic zeal the study of greek, in which both excelled, and they composed verses in that language with competitory ardor. In the printed works of Dr. Sayers, only the Epinikion has been preserved (vol. I. p. 253), but many other such metrical effusions have displayed, and perhaps still remain somewhere, in the custody of confidential friendship, to attest, his critical and profound knowledge of the greek language.
Since the death of his mother, Dr. Sayers had seldom attended the Octagon, and then chiefly for the sake of hearing the Rev. Pendlebury Houghton, whose pulpit-oratory he so deliberately admired, that he once enquired of me whether I had ever heard in England, or on the continent, a preacher on the whole superior. Yet all this approbation did not suffice to detain him among the dissenters. He progressively became a frequenter of the cathedral-worship, which, from the imposing majesty of its theatre and its execution, is so well adapted for association with a serious and profound piety. There is in chaunted prayer a something, which, by concealing the articulate phraseology, sheathes from notice any controvertible sentiments of the liturgy, and lends to the soul an harmonious expression for its own interior worship. This conformity did not, as in some instances, result from indifference; on the contrary, Dr. Sayers was becoming more decidedly religious, began to look back with aversion on a philosophy unable, as he thought, to demonstrate even the truths of natural religion, and had placed in a strong light an important part of the evidence for revelation (vol. II. p. 65) which argument he first inserted in a Christian Miscellany of the year 1792.
No doubt the writings of Mr. Burke against the French Revolution, which were now acquiring, a national and an European importance, contributed to convince Dr. Sayers that a loyal subject should lean to the religion of the magistrate, that all dissent operates to weaken the hands of government, and that heretical temples are easily made subservient to the propagation of political discontent. Had the minuter theological opinions of Dr. Sayers remained at rest, I am persuaded that his progressive dislike of revolutionary principles would have floated him into the church of England. The choice once made, he systematically denied to himself all further study of the writers not orthodox: they gradually disappeared from the shelves of his library, and were re-placed by the Horsleys and Macknights. This discipline was efficacious and produced eventually a sincere conviction: those arguments which we are industrious to retrace, are soon the only ones which we remember, and those we remember the only ones we believe. Nor was it without ultimate satisfaction that Dr. Sayers found himself in the bosom of a church, into which he had been baptized, and which, having been that of his paternal ancestors, seemed destined for him by yon higher hand, which so determines the faith of the majority of mankind.
In 1793, Dr. Sayers published his Disquisitions Metaphysical and Literary. It has been less uncommon among the moderns, than among the ancients, for the same person to excel in opposite or unconnected departments of literature. The difficulty of attracting attention to an inconsiderable work, and of rapidly diffusing any short composition, naturally pre-disposed the learned of former times, rather to build up a gradual reputation by perseverance in one generally interesting pursuit, than by the occasional display of great mental vigour in different directions, to captivate at once the few, who await not the sanction either of multitudes or of ages to admire. But now that the number of judges in every species of composition is increased, and that to all these any literary effort is speedily accessible, and the more so for its conciseness; now that a relish for various study is nearly universal; the practice of writing for readers the most heterogeneous has proportionably spread. Homer was only the epic poet; Isocrates only the politician; Milton both. Pindar has left no disquisition concerning the beautiful and the good; nor has Plato immortalized in lyric effusions the mythology which his opinions supplanted; but Dr. Sayers has acquired rank alike as a poet and a philosopher.
The Disquisitions were originally nine in number, five of which retain a high permanent value, namely those on Beauty, on Perception, or Disinterested Passions, on the connection of Pain and Pleasure, and on the poetical character of Horace. The treatise of the Dramatic Unities, of English Metres, and even the elegant, convincing, and original investigation of the merit of Horace, may be considered as connected with the defence of the Dramatic Sketches against some remarks of the periodic critics. It was proper to show, that in the drama the unity of action is alone essential, that of time arbitrary, that of place pernicious — proper to show, that English poets of delightful euphony and enduring fame had used rimeless lines of various length — and proper to show, that the Ode requires singleness of purpose and coherence of parts — all which is happily accomplished. The statement of the Evidence for Christianity is perhaps rather consecrated to the cares of eternity than to those of immortality. The analysis of Disinterested Passions is executed with acute perspicuity, and deserves to supplant Gay's celebrated Preface to King's Origin of Evil. Truly important and original views are contained in the enquiry concerning Perception; it aims at showing, that the mind is incapable of perceiving more than one idea at a time: an opinion, which if proved, will go very far to evince the monadic nature of the soul, the existence of a perceptive power in one atom of peculiar properties, instead of its diffusion over a cluster of organic fibres, as maintained by the modern materialists. Nor is the connexion of Pain and Pleasure examined with less delicate research; this disquisition affords one of those instances of ingenious theory, which delight by their novelty, their dexterous evolution, their consistency and completeness, and irresistibly produce that wish to believe, which is the best preparation for permanent conviction. The appearance of these Disquisitions was hailed in one of the Norwich newspapers by the following lines, which may confidently be ascribed to the Rev. John Walker:
INSCRIPTION INTENDED FOR DR. SAYER'S ESSAYS, PUBLISHED IN 1793.
Spirits of purer frame, silent who live
Estrang'd from care and cloud of the rude world,
Who taste in Fancy's dream Ilyssus' wave
And breathe Parnassian gales, lo! here the page
Which speaks such thoughts, such simple attic phrase
As heard those Genii-haunted streams among,
Alas now beard no more. O ye who muse
With modest mind, of truth, of good, and fair,
Who search with curious eye the springs of thought,
Or passions' power, who trace the paths of taste
Of poesy antique, or modern date,
O list again the Druid, him whose lyre
Late echoed mid dark Hela's realms, and charm'd
The golden tears from Frea's sky-bright eyes,
Far other audience now, yet equal praise
Attend, if not this friendly verse mis-deem
If right the sovereign bard of Eden spake;
Song charms the sense, but eloquence the soul.
The Rev. J. Walker frequently visited his neighbour Henry Kett Esq. a bachelor of easy income, who, with the help of a bailiff, farmed his own estate at Dickleburgh, but spent the greater part of his time very hospitably in Norwich, cultivating and enjoying literary society. A pamphlet concerning the controversy between Hume and Warburton was ascribed to him; and another on the inclosure of Mosswold. I have often had the pleasure of joining at Mr. Kett's table both Mr. Walker and Dr. Sayers, and believe the Disquisition on Pain and Pleasure to have originated in a controversial conversation which occurred there.
In the summer of 1793, Dr. Sayers received the following letter from Silesia, which attests the progress of his continental celebrity.
"Lignitz, May 30th, 1793,
There are in Germany at this time many who begin to relish the Mythology of our Northern ancestors. This being the case, those of my countrymen, who are sufficiently acquainted with the English Language, were much charmed with the spirit, judgment, and all those beauties of your learned Muse. Our best critics admire the novelty, simplicity, style and painting in the Dramatic Sketches of Northern Mythology. I have read these poems, which could not but give me great pleasure, and therefore I was tempted to translate them into German. I send you the book itself, and wish that it may have your approbation.
You mention in the Preface the tragedy Caractacus, which I never have seen. I am sure you will forgive me the liberty I take in begging you to honor me with a letter, wherein you mention me the Author of this Tragedy, and give me a short account of the subject of it; you may send the letter, if you please to write to me, under the address: "An den Doctor Neubeck in Lignitz, in Schlesien."
I trust you will be ever assured of the sincere and en. tire respect with which I am always,
Your most humble Servant,
This letter was accompanied with a German copy of Dr: Neubeck's translation of the Dramatic Sketches, printed at Leipsic, in 1793. Made from the first edition, it does not contain the monodrama of Oswald, but is executed with elegance, and fidelity. In a concluding note, Dr. Neubeck observes, "My wish has been to deliver the Dramatic Sketches to the public as faithfully as possible, wherefore I have left some places unchanged, in which the poet has erred against mythic truth, for instance in using Mimer for the name of a fountain, and in making Balder, the northern god of the sun. But these, local and petty blemishes weigh as nothing against the overpowering beauties of the Poems."
I find among the papers of Dr. Sayers another letter from the same hand, which though of later date will more conveniently groupe here.
"Lignitz, Dec. 28th, 1795.
Your's of the 15th of last December came to my hands about five months since. I will not pretend to return you such thanks as I ought, till I write such poems as your's are. Your Disquisitions are already known in Germany as a piece written with distinguished criticism. In the perusal of them, I have met with the information of many useful truths, and a great deal of very pleasing entertainment. I acknowledge myself obliged very much to you for your present of Mason's Poems. Among other bards of your island I relish exceedingly Mr. Jerningham's performances, many of his poems are in my hands; and charmed with the beauty of his genius, I desire to read his other works too. You see how forward I am to importune you with my little concerns, but I hope if you please to send me the writings of this author you'll give me the price of them in a little note. Dr. Akenside, the ingenious author of the Pleasures of Imagination, has written a hymn to the Naiads. I beg you to add a copy of it. I believe you will forgive me this liberty, for I am desperately fond of all the three thousand daughters of old Ocean, but my favourites are the beating sisters of them. The slowness of the press has so long retarded the, answer to your last obliging letter, that my book Die Gesund-brunnen (the Health-Wells) which I desire you to accept from me, must be an excuse for my long silence. I beg your pardon for sending you such a trifle as are my other poems — it is an expression of good will.
With the greatest respect, I am, Sir, Your obliged humble Servant,
Through the intervention of Dr. Sayers, the Health-Wells of Dr. Neubeck were mentioned in the Monthly Review: and at the same time, if I mistake not, was transmitted an article of his own, concerning Dr. Hamilton's work on Drowned Persons, which was his only contribution to that journal.
In 1794 and 1795 Dr. Sayers was a member of the committee to the Norwich Public Library; and the President's chair was offered to him, but declined. At the December meeting, after reading over as usual the titles of the various Reviews and Magazines, and determining to continue them on the old footing, the list in the Proposing Book took its turn. A copy of the newest French Constitution was one of the books which came under consideration. We have just agreed, observed Dr. Sayers, not to take any more periodical publications. A bon mot, a pat word, as the English language would perhaps allow us to term it, was habitually at his tongue's end.
At this period, methinks, Dr. Sayers had attained his full maturity, had reached the height of his greatness. Insensibly he was become the the first man in Norwich, the one to whom an illustrious stranger, a judge of merit, would most have coveted to be introduced, and would have learned to know with unmixed delight and admiration. All his accomplishments were of the highest class and of the finest chiselling; in him learning, genius, and intellect, struggled for the mastery. Majesty blended with suavity and feeling characterized the expression of his person. Perhaps his earlier manners had been accused of shyness, they now united dignity with ease, and exhibited the urbanity of European polish. "A diner-out of the first water" and consequently of the first wine, there was no table in or near Norwich, which asserted a genteel hospitality, whose host was not proud to seat him among the guests. His acquaintance however was select not general; and he preferred small to large parties, often repeating from Athenaeus, that the number at a symposium should vibrate between that of the Graces and the Muses. His conversation, always ready but never usurpative, won its easy way to the heart of attention, displaying a knowledge various and sound, decorations lively, playful and facetious, reasoning luminous and principled, yet so skilfully guided by an inherent taste and temper within the nicest limits of the graceful, that his learning was never pedantic, his wit never sarcastic, his argument never pertinatious. No where did he unfold with more felicity and cordiality his fascinating conversational powers than at a weekly evening club, held at the Hole in the Wall, where he pretty regularly met Mr. Amyot, Mr. Barron, Mr. Dalrymple, Rev. G. De Hague, Mr. Firth, afterwards Serjeant Firth, Rev. O. Linley, Mr. Pitchford, Dr. Wright, and myself. It was not however to a chosen few that the display of his powers was confined; the universality of their application was perhaps their most characteristic feature. — "His conversation" says Mr. Amyot, justly, in a letter to me concerning this biography, "was equally acceptable to the learned and the illiterate, and it was peculiarly agreeable to females and to children. To all ranks, ages, and characters, it may truly be said to have imparted delight. His talent for delicate and good humoured raillery was as rich as it was amusing, and it had the rare quality of not giving offence to the object of it. Every body loved him. no body stood in awe of him."
1799 to 1805. Age 36 to 42.
The youth of Dr. Sayers had been agitated by various loves and dis-loves, of which it must suffice to observe, that they had all too disintertested a character to terminate in matrimony; if the Cynthias, and Chloes, and Delias of his love-songs could be guessed with probability by a contiguous observer, the veil of the Muse may not be torn.
By the decease of his aunt Mrs. Alric, in 1799. Dr. Sayers acquired a considerable accession of property. He now became a liberal contributor to the principal public charities of Norwich, and extended further his multitudinous private benefactions. His art of giving was truly refined, and the reverse of ostentatious. Many times on subscription-papers he would put down less than he contributed, aware that the authority of his name would be most exemplary at the average rate of other people's munificence.
His establishment included two female servant's: some one, who slept elsewhere, came to clean the knives and shoes and to rake and weed the garden. But the limitation of his revenue, still imposed some restraint on his hospitality, and more on his naturally profuse beneficence: wherefore he determined eventually to sink a sum of money in the government-annuities, and thus to increase his income.
At one time he kept a horse and gig, and amused himself with successive pilgrimages to the different churches within a day's drive of Norwich, (for he disliked sleeping from home) and examined their architecture, and monumental decorations, with critical minuteness. Mr. Amyot, Mr. Boldero, and Dr. Sutton were often his companions in these expeditions, and occasionally tempted him to remoter journies, as for, instance, to Orford Castle.
Whether these jaunts were the cause, or the effect, of a taste for antiquarian reading, at least, they were coeval with this new pursuit, and contributed to corroborate and perpetuate it. Hebrew and Anglo-Saxon were undertaken as auxiliary studies; and Dr. Sayers now began to prepare those hints on English Architecture, that account of St. George, and the Essays on Saxon literature, which were first collected in 1805, under the title Miscellanies Antiquarian and Historical.
Hitherto his library had chiefly consisted of classical and fine literature, he now acquired many expensive works on archaeology and the fine arts, in any books of prints, and especially architectural engravings. Nor was his patronage lost on the living artists. Plates were dedicated to him in Britton's Architectural Antiquities, in the account of Norwich Cathedral, and also in Cotinan's Antiquities of Norfolk.
In 1800, Mr. and Mrs. Opie came to Norwich, on a visit to her father, Dr. Alderson, when, at my request, Dr. Sayers sat to this celebrated painter for the portrait, which has been engraved as a frontispiece to this edition of his collective works by Mr. Edwards of Bungay. Dr. Sayers conversed much with Mr. Opie on art, listened to his native strength of talent and originality of judgment, and has happily applied to him a greek distich in the note (vol. II. p. 11.) to the Essay on Beauty.
Not long after this, Mr. Robert Southey visited Norwich, was introduced to Dr. Sayers, and partook those feelings of complacent admiration, which his presence was adapted to inspire. I wish to fancy, that the cometary exorbitance of Mr. Southey's early political opinions then incurred that first concentration, which was gradually to bring him within the attraction of the sun of government. Dr. Sayers pointed out to us in conversation, as adapted for the theme of ballad, a story related by Olaus Magnus of a witch, whose coffin was confined by three chains sprinkled with holy, water, but was nevertheless carried off by daemons. Already I believe Dr. Sayers had made a ballad on the subject, so did I, and so did Mr. Southey: but after seeing the Old Woman of Berkeley, we agreed in awarding to it the preference. Indeed it may be placed at the head of English ballads. Still the very different manner in which each had employed the same basis of narrative might render welcome the opportunity of comparison; but I have not found among the papers of Dr. Sayers a copy of his poem. To the writings of Dr. Sayers, Mr. Southey has attended much; and I think, especially in the Triumph of Woman, has occasionally imitated with felicity his lyric style.
In 1803 appeared a third edition of the poems, which attests the progress of the author's popularity, and introduced to the public the Cyclops from Euripides, substituted an Ode to Night for the Ode to Aurora, and suppressed the ballad of Sir Egwin.
About this time Dr. Sayers wrote a hand-bill and inserted some paragraphs in the Norfolk Chronicle to recommend volunteering; they alike do honor to his patriotism and to his eloquence.
During the same year, with the title Nugae Poeticae, were published some minor poems, of which Jack the Giant Killer is one of the more conspicuous. This is perhaps the most truly Homeric narration in our language, and deserves to become the model of a peculiar class of epopea. The adaptation of this style to the story of Jack was occasioned, I understand, by a perusal of Holcroft's translation of Herman and Dorothea, which Mr. Amyot had lent to Dr. Sayers, who returned the volume with some humourous lines, in which this form of parody was first realized. Dr. Sayers had an idea of versifying other Popular Tales of the English, and had made a collection of penny story-books, whence to choose the themes, such as Guy of Warwick, the Sleeping Beauty, Saint Fortunatus, the Friar and Boy, Blue Beard, &c. Guy of Warwick alone was attempted, but broken off.
In 1803, Edward Whetstone, the old clerk of Trowse parish, gave an organ to the church; originally he had only bequeathed the purchase, money; but having mentioned his intention to the vicar and other principal inhabitants, and wishing to hear his own organ, they agreed to allow him an annuity out of the rates, equivalent to the interest of his legacy, which was thus made available in his life-time. On this occasion the following epigrams by Dr. Sayers found their way into the Norfolk Chronicle.
ON TROWSE ORGAN.
"Fungar vice cotis acutum." — HORACE.
I Whetstone, clerk of this good parish,
Having no organs fit for singing,
And wishing much my breath to cherish,
Bought pipes to set the church a ringing.
Now, though I ne'er could hum a stave,
To some renown I still aspire,
For this brave organ which I gave,
Is deem'd the Whetstone of the choir.
ON THE SAME.
Ned Whetstone to Trowse parish left,
An organ which in giving,
He thought that when of breath bereft,
He'd make more noise than living.
But fearing that if he should go,
The choice might be ill-suited,
He chose to live to witness how,
His will was executed.
During the residence of Mr. Trafford, (afterwards S. T. Southwell, Esq. of Wroxham) near and in Norwich, Dr. Sayers was a welcome guest at his table, and admired in him urbanity of manners, sedate eloquence, profound knowledge of Constitutional law. and especially kindred classical acquirements. — To the good humour and decoration of social intercourse, Dr. Sayers was always ready to contribute. — With the date 8th June, 1804, I find among his papers some hitherto unpublished verses addressed to Miss D. on returning to her through Dr. S. a puzzle of two beads on a card: they have the ease and grace which belong to such galant effusions.
Pray, lady fair, for what ill deeds
Am I thus doom'd to tell my beads?
To fix the glittering baubles right,
I labour morning, noon, and night;
I twist them round and round again,
But all my twirlings are in vain,
For, whether I unloose or bind them,
Still where they should not be, I find them.
Surely some dark and awful spell
Within the slender knot must dwell,
And witching fingers twin'd a noose,
Which none but conjurors can unloose.
And yet 'tis hard that I, who read
The works of venerable Bede,
That I, who bit by ancient lore,
O'er musty bead-rolls daily pore,
And live in bonds of friendship true,
With many a good old beadsman too;
'Tis hard that I, when fairly pitted,
By these small beads should he outwitted.
Yet so it is — I here confess it,
As to the charm I ne'er shall guess it;
Finding, alas! 'tis vain to try,
To loosen bonds that ladies tie.
No more I'll sorrowing rack my brain,
But send the mischief back again,
For why thus sadder grow and sadder,
'Bout three blue beads in one blue bladder.
Let me also preserve another instance of the same kind by transcribing some verses on the loss of a pair of slippers, addressed to his aunt Mrs. Rachel Hunter, the authoress of Mrs. Palmerston's Letters, and of several elegant and moral novels.
Anacreon that galant old poet,
Wish'd in an ode — I am sure you know it—
Without a single thought of scandal,
That he could be his mistress' sandal;
And Hudibras, that queer old codger,
Yet of a woman no had dodger;
When praising high his favourite beauty,
Honours the shadow of her shoe-tie.
Thus at all times an ardent swain,
In hopes his charmer's smiles to gain,
Cares not what length his passions go,
And worships her from top to toe.
Some steal a ribband, some a locket,
Some put her scissars in their pocket,
To shew they hold in highest honor,
All that their mistress bears upon her.
Sure then, dear Ma'am, 'tis falsely said,
That still you fret, and scold your maid,
And search your closets round and round,
Because your slippers can't be found
Think but an instant, and you'll see,
'Tis a mere trick of gallantry;
For what true lover would despise
To pocket e'en the oddest prize?
At least some beau, who sees with fear
Your wanderings in the evening air,
Who loves eternally to be
Blest with your sprightly company:
Might hide your slippers, as a hint,
There's something rather pretty in't,
That tender ladies should not roam,
And thus he bids you stay at home.
So seems the case, at least 'tis vain
To hope to find your goods again—
Whether in man's of woman's power,
Be sure to you; they come no more;
For who's so proud as not to choose,
To tread in Mrs. HUNTER'S shoes?
Other poems of this class by the same hand have slidden into circulation, some Charades, for instance, but I find no copy of them among the papers. The address to a Gothic Chair written in the Album at Bracondale, Lodge, the villa of Philip Meadows Martineau, Esq. and the lines on the Extirpation of Thorpe Grove, are still more splendid specimens of his occasional verses.
In 1803, died the Rev. Samuel Story, for many years minister in the parish of St. Michael Coslany: on his tombstone placed in the vestry is the following inscription, which was drawn up by Dr. Sayers.
Hic quiescit SAMUEL STORY
per XXX fere annos
Vir doctus, placidus, comis.
Antiquarian occupations were now daily encroaching, more and more, on that of writing poetry. In 1804 Dr. Sayers communicated to the Society of Antiquaries, through the Rev. Samuel Henley, some curious notices concerning the Dormitory of the Cathedral-monastery of Norwich, which had then lately been laid bare, in consequence of the demolition of a work-house, of which it formed a part. This paper was inserted in the Archaeologia, vol. xv. page 311.
In 1805, the Miscellanies antiquarian and historical made their appearance: they are worthy of the author of the Disquisitions, and form a welcome addition to his prose-works. The first dissertation on the term Hebrew is more important than on a first perusal it appears to be; and by deriving the word from the preposition "beyond" powerfully favours the doctrine of those who believe the Hebrew Language to have been that of the dwellers beyond the Euphrates, that is the East Aramic, and not the West Aramic dialect, as in our schools of scripture-criticism has usually been taught. In the second argumentation it is satisfactorily shown, in opposition to the opinion of some commentator, that the Melita on which St. Paul was shipwrecked, is the modern Malta. The account of St. George is full of new, learned, and recondite matter, though perhaps, not wholly satisfactory: it indirectly attacks the narrative of Gibbon, (c xxiii. p. 402-404) and endeavours to establish a distinction between George the Arian, and George the Saint. The rise and progress of English poetry is luminously and eruditely sketched, and the causes of the succession of different schools of composition are happily illustrated and, explained, but I feel a little angry with the concluding sally against the German School. The Hints on English Architecture I am ill qualified to appreciate: they appear to me well to condense a comprehensive reading, but to lean with too equal a reliance on authorities unequally judicious. — In the papers of Dr. Sayers occur numberless notes, relative to these Hints, corrective and, recorrective of each other, indicating on many points, a fastidious uncertainty in the author's mind, which a subsequent publication by Mr. Rickman of Liverpool assisted to settle. On one scrap there is a memorandum: "Shall I take to pieces a copy of my Hints on English Architecture, and bind it up again with drawings (which get) of all things mentioned in the said Hints. When I have thus sufficiently illustrated my Hints, bind them up and the drawings together, and offer the work for separate publication, with additional text and notes?" I wish Dr. Sayers had done this: who can now select the appropriate illustrations, who date the conflicting testimonials, or satisfactorily infer his own ultimate opinion? Yet this was evidently a favourite dissertation of the writer, and may be considered as the scheme, or prospectus, of a separate work, to which, if his health had endured, he would have consecrated a preference of attention. The two dissertations concerning Saxon literature, and Saxon names of months, attest much proficiency in the language and literature of our forefathers. The installation of Anselm is a characteristic extract. Both the lives of Edgar Atheling, and of Edmund Mortimer, display advantageously, the radical enquiry, the patient research, and the equitable appreciation of the biographer. Concerning the family of Mortimer, Mr. Malone has recorded some observations, which are inserted in this edition.
At the time these historic works were written, Dr. Sayers meditated an entire series of such accounts concerning all the disappointed claimants of the British throne — a volume of Lives of the Pretenders. But this elegant historic project was never realized. Indeed both Dr. Sayers and I were great, I might almost say, systematic postponers. He would quote in a panegyrical sense, Procrastination is the thief of time, and we have often smiled in cordial sympathy at the maxim, that "he who leaves a thing undone has always something to do." In this though, at first the imitator, I have alas! (as the slow completion of this biography attests) at length learned to surpass my model.
Among the lay neighbours of Dr. Sayers, the one most distinguished by his friendship was, I think, Mr. Thomas Amyot, now resident in James Street, Westminster, and no less eminent for accomplishments of mind, which he has principally directed to antiquarian studies, than for eager kindness of heart. After the removal of this gentleman to London, in 1806, Dr. Sayers corresponded with him assiduously. "Between this period and that of our final separation, I received, (says Mr. Amyot,) near 200 letters from him, which are now in my possession, he having in our last conversation permitted me to retain them, although I do not consider myself authorised to give them publicity. They are chiefly on the literary topics of the day, interspersed, with Norwich anecdotes and chit-chat, and enlivened with frequent characteristic sallies of pleasantry and humour. But I was not his only correspondent during that period. Indeed he had many others in his list, at the head of which were Mr. James Sayers, and our lamented friend the late Bishop of Calcutta. His letters to the latter, written after as well as before the bishop's departure for India, are I should guess among his best compositions of this class, at least among the most elaborate of them. To Mr. Sayers and to me he probably wrote with more ease and freedom than to any others of his correspondents, as you, in consequence of your residence in Norwich, were no longer in the list of them. I think his letters are models of excellence. They have more ease than Gibbon's, more variety than Cowper's, they ,have the gaiety of Horace Walpole without his arrogance, and the learning, taste, and spirit of Gray, without his fastidiousness."
Part of a letter from Dr. Sayers to the Rev. W. Kirby, of Barham, in Suffolk, was inserted by that gentleman in the Orthodox Churchman's Magazine, for May, 1805; it relates to some words in the Testament being graecized from the Hebrew.
In 1805, Mr. Thomas Tawell, of Norwich, an iron merchant of considerable property, who was threatened, if not already afflicted, with blindness, purchased a stately mansion, then inhabited by the Right Hon. Lord Bradford, together with the attached four acres of garden ground, and generously offered it to the community, as the basis of an institution for the benefit of the Indigent Blind in Norfolk and Norwich. A public meeting was called, during the mayoralty of James Marsh, Esq. at which a subscription was entered into for defraying the yearly expenses of the establishment, a committee was chosen for superintending the institution, and various regulations were made for its conduct. Dr. Sayers was an active member of this Committee, and was requested to draw up an address to the benevolent public in behalf of this, excellent Charity. The Address accompanied with an account of the foundation, with its laws and regulations, and with a list of the patrons and subscribers, was printed in 1806, under the superintendence of Dr. Sayers, and, may with propriety be here transcribed. It was entitled, an Account of the Establishment of an Hospital and School, for the Indigent Blind of Norfolk and Norwich.
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add faith
Add virtue, patience, temperance, add love,
By name to come call'd Charity, the soul
Of all the rest.
"It is the boast of our religion, that the origin of those institutions which are dedicated to the relief and consolation of the unfortunate, may he traced to the pious. activity of a Christian lady; and the benign spirit of our Faith has ceased not to exert itself in extending their advantages to every species of suffering, which they may be calculated to alleviate, or to remove. "Mercy and alms," says one of the most eloquent of our writers," are the body and soul of that charity which we must pay to our neighbours' need; and it is a precept which God has therefore enjoyned to the world, that the great inequality which he was pleased to suffer in the possessions and accidents of men, might be reduced to some temper and evenness; and the most miserable person reconciled to some sense and participation of felicity." No one indeed can be ignorant of the earnestness and anxiety, with which the grand duty of doing good is inculcated by Christianity: to this the Divine Author of our Faith devoted himself in his life, and in his death; without this, he taught us, that all else availed us nothing; to this, he annexed the most exalted rewards, and he blessed it with his peculiar favour, by declaring that inasmuch as we did good "to one of the least of these our brethren, we did it unto him."
"But lest the commands and promises of religion, awful and powerful as they are, should be ineffectual to awaken all that zeal which is required of us, the hand of Nature has stampt upon our hearts those feelings, which, while unblenched and unhardened by the world, cannot but eagerly prompt us to deeds of charity and kindness: the effects that are so uniformly produced by benevolent exertions, are much too striking and lovely to. be viewed without the warmest interest and satisfaction; the gift of the humane is doubly blessed; 'It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.'
"Let us turn our eyes to the hovel of care and suffering; let us look upon the father of a numerous and distressed family, stretched upon the bed of sickness and pain; let us mark him, amid the pangs or faintings of disease, casting his languid eyes upon the dearest objects of his affection, and feeling, from the contemplation of their anxiety and wants, a greater agony and dismay than that which his bodily sufferings can inflict — but soon the scene is changed — Benevolence extends her saving hand; she proffers the cordials which reanimate his frame; she feeds, protects, and, cheers his drooping offspring: health strengthens his limbs vigour flushes his countenance, and his little treasure of moderate, but satisfying pleasures is once more restored to him. Let us again observe that lonely and melancholy being from whose closed eyes the fair and brilliant scenes of Nature, the cheering looks of those he loves, are for ever excluded; helpless he sits, exposed to penury, to injury, to contumely—
—dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse,
Without all hope of day.
But even this prospect, cheerless as it is, will be illuminated by the approach of Charity; she takes to her protection the hopeless child of gloom; she surrounds him with comforts, with companions, with assistants: she does more — she calls forth the light of his soul; she opens to him the consolations of religion: she rouzes into action those senses which Providence has left him in peculiar perfection; she imposes on him the grateful task of. administering to his own wants; she teaches him an employment which dissipates the dismal vacancy of his solitary hours; and she finally enables him to bear with content, nay even with cheerfulness, the formidable malady, with which God has been pleased to afflict him. The pictures which have now been sketched are not the fiction's of imagination; they are traced even with a timid pencil; but they can hardly be regarded with indifference, for we have not yet broken the golden chain that bindeth than to man.
"But even if the holier or more amiable motives for charity should be unfortunately deadened in their action, some aid might possibly be derived from a love and respect for our country; long has she been eminently conspicuous as the liberal friend of the wretched, as 'the comforter of those who mourn.'
The stores profuse,
Which British bounty has to these assign'd,
No more the sacrilegious riot swell
Of cannibal devourers. Right applied,
The weak and old they feed, the strong employ.
Sweet sets the sun of stormy life, and sweet
The morning shines in mercy's dews array'd."
Surely this is not the hour in which we can expect the fair fame of our country to be sullied; this is not the hour in which we can be permitted to relax our exertions in preserving to her any of those honourable characters by which she has hitherto been distinguished.
"Some apology may possibly be deemed necessary for an appeal which may, by many, be considered as superfluous; but even the feeblest pleading in behalf of the unfortunate will at all times have claims to indulgence, if not to approbation."
It is more than probable, that Dr. Sayers also penned the address subscribed by Mr. Tawell, who may have dictated the substance, but was no longer able to be his own secretary. Dr. Sayers was much attached to him, and for several, years dined regularly every Monday at his table. Beside discharging a yearly subscription of two guineas, Dr. Sayers bequeathed fifty pounds to this Asylum for the Blind.
1806 to 1812. Age 43 to 49.
The summer of 1806 was spent by Dr. Sayers in preparing a new edition of the poems, which was to appear in the following spring. Some delicate variations were made in the text; some translations were added to the previous stock of poetry; the lines to a snow-drop were suppressed; many additional notes were attached, many learned citations inserted, and several profound though short investigations were undertaken and interpolated with the notes, which are worthy of being dilated into academic memoirs. This edition was printed at Norwich, and published by Cadell and Davies, in 1807: and as it is the latest edition of Dr. Sayers's Poems which the author lived to superintend himself, it must therefore remain the classical one, and acquire a superior bibliographic value to the others. Its reception by the periodic critics, and by the reading public, was just, and therefore flattering; it was welcomed as a beautiful and enduring trophy of the British Muse. High authorities signified their approbation. The following letter from Sir Walter Scott, dated Edinburgh, 20th June, 1807, remains among the papers handed over to me.
I was yesterday honoured with your favor of the 23d May, accompanying a volume of poetry to the merits of the greater part of which I am no stranger. I was more particularly flattered by your kind approbation of my poetical efforts, because I have been long an admirer of your runic rhymes, and set a very high value indeed upon the copy 'ex dono auctoris.' We owe much to those who have united the patience of the antiquary, and the genius of the poet, in their researches into former times, and in this honoured list your name has long held a distinguished rank. Give me leave to solicit a continuance of an acquaintance commenced in a moment so very agreeable to my feelings, and believe me,
Your most obliged
And most obedient Servant,
A similar letter from the Rev. W. L. Bowles, is dated 27th Nov. from Bremhill, near Calne, Wilts.
I beg leave to thank you most cordially for the volume of poems you were so kind as to transmit by my friend W. Linley. Of course I was no stranger to the name of Sayers, nor to the northern Dramatic Sketches, which I have read with increased pleasure. To the first poem, the descent of Frea, no words from me could do justice. The wildness of the circumstances and characters, the novelty and sublimity of the imagery, the rich and appropriate diction, and the unity and simplicity of the conduct, in my opinion place it far above any thing in Gray. The Giant-Killer is perfectly original, and in its way inimitable. And the sonnet on Uncle Joe is a most excellent burlesque of affected simplicity, which is to me far more offensive in writing than any other affectation. If any thing should bring you toward Bath, I hope I need not say how happy I should he to receive you at Bremhill, and am with the greatest respect,
Your obliged humble Servant,
W. L. BOWLES."
From a letter dated 6th Nov. 1807, and subscribed by the Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries, it appears, that Dr. Sayers presented a copy of his poems, to that body.
In September and October, 1808, Dr. Sayers, in consequence of some previous accidental conversation, addressed two letters to Sir James Edward Smith, on the subject of the [Greek characters]: as they have a permanent literary value, it may be well here to transcribe them.
"Close, 12th Sept. 1808.
The discussion into which you were so obliging as to enter yesterday evening, induced me to look a little more for the earliest meaning of the word [Greek characters]. I do not find that it is used more than once by Homer in the Iliad or Odyessy; the passage which I noticed to you yesterday in the Iliad (N. 589) is, I find, thus translated by Damm in his celebrated Lexic. Homer. "A ventilabro in arca saliunt fabae fuscae et pisa: nam color harum fabarum est fuscus et rufus."
The same writer translates "[Greek characters] faba, maxime ea species quam Germani walsche bonen, vulgo San-bonen, vocant, at quas Graeci [Greek characters] appellant."
In the Batrachomyomachia, of which the aera however as you well know, is somewhat uncertain, the word [Greek characters] again occurs. In the army of the mice it is said l. 123.
The [Greek characters] thus ingeniously used for greaves by the mice, must of course have been of the shape of some of our ordinary beans. The common meaning of [Greek characters] then before the time of Pythagoras is thus sufficiently plain. It appears too from the use of the word [Greek characters] in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and others of about the same aera, that this ancient sense of [Greek characters] was retained in the time of Theophrastus. In Athenaeus, however, I find mention made not only of ordinary [Greek characters] eaten at feasts, but also of the [Greek characters] of which he gives a description extracted from Theophrastus (viz. that of the Nymphaea Nelumbo not of the Lotus) he also quotes Nicander, who recommends the sowing of this [Greek characters], saying that garlands may be made of its flowers, and that its fruit and roots may be eaten. This Nicander who certainly was no Pythagorean lived only about 137 years before Christ. In his time, then, and probably before, though how long before I know not, the Nymphaea Nelumbo was known as a plant fit for food, and the name [Greek characters], perhaps taken from Theophrastus, was commonly affixed to it.
The only apology I have to make for sending you these crudities, is the desire which I feel to make some slight return for the amusement and instruction which I yesterday received from you.
P.S. Herodotus, where he mentions that the Egyptians did not eat the [Greek characters], and that the priests thought unclean ([Greek characters]) also uses the word [Greek characters] in the same paragraph as including the [Greek characters]."
"Close, 3d Oct. 1808.
Since I had the pleasure of sending you a week or two ago a few passages, which I had hastily collected, respecting the [Greek characters] of the ancients, a supposition has occurred to me, by which I think some of the difficulties arising on that subject might possibly he removed. I have therefore thought proper to trouble you with it.
As we have found no greek writer, prior to Theophrastus, who had used the word [Greek characters] with any other meaning than that of the ordinary legumen so called, does it not appear possible, that the Hindu [Greek characters], or Nymplaea Nelumbo, may have been first imported from the East at the time of the conquests of Alexander? Might not even the King himself have ordered so celebrated a plant, and probably other curious natural productions, to be sent to his preceptor Aristotle, from whom a knowledge of it would readily have been obtained by Theophrastus? But without any interference of the Conqueror himself, specimens of such a striking vegetable as the Nymphaea Nelumbo could hardly fail of finding their way to Greece from the East.
Its introduction into Egypt may, I think, be similarly accounted for, and reasonably fixed at about the same period. The [Greek characters] mentioned by Herodotus, as being held in abomination by the Egyptians, is certainly not the Nymphaea Nelumbo I conceive; he expressly calls it an [Greek characters] and the circumstance of its being held in abomination, of its being deemed [Greek characters] sufficiently points out, that it could never have been the holy, adorable, Nymphaea of India. Herodotus, then, knew nothing of any other kind of [Greek characters] in Egypt than the ordinary bean. But the Nymphaea Nelumbo might very probably have been introduced into Egypt about the time of the first Ptolemy. To Nicander, who lived at Alexandria under the seventh Ptolemy, it would of course be well known, but it might still be so little cultivated as to induce him to insist on its excellence in his Georgics. What effect this exhortation might have I know not, but the cultivation of the Nympheea Nelumbo appears to have continued in Egypt in the time of Pliny, who mentions two genera of Egyptian fabae, one of which he calls 'rotundius et nigrius.' This I conceive to be the Nelumbo; the other I presume was the ordinary [Greek characters] of Herodotus.
If the above hypothesis be true, it is certainly somewhat unfavourable to your supposition of Pythagoras having borrowed his precept from Egypt, supposing it I mean to apply to the Nymphaea Nelumbo. In case of its so applying, Pythagoras must I think, have taken it direct from India; but it appears to me more probable that he did borrow it from Egypt, and applied it (as the Egyptians themselves seem to have done) to the ordinary [Greek characters] of the time of Herodotus. Upon this supposition, the precept itself would have been very intelligible to the followers of Pythagoras, although the reasons for it were not understood; but if it contained any allusion to the Nymphaea Nelumbo, such allusion must have been totally obscure and unavailing to the inhabitants of a country where that plant appears to have been unknown.
Your's very truly,
The following note is preserved also with the rough draft of the foregoing letters, but is probably of subsequent date.
"Against my theory of the introduction of the [Greek characters] into Greece, it may he urged, that if it came from the East to Aristotle, and thence to Theophrastus, Theophrastus would rather have called it [Greek characters] (if that be regular greek) than [Greek characters], or at least by some name indicating, the part of the world whence it came. To this objection it might be replied, that the [Greek characters] in question appears to have been cultivated sooner in Egypt than in Greece , if indeed it was cultivated there at all. Possibly the climate of Egypt might he more favourable to its growth, it might therefore be in use in Egypt even at so early a period as that of the first Ptolemy, and as Theophrastus flourished under Ptolemy Lagus, it is not impossible that the [Greek characters] of the East may have been known in Greece by the title of [Greek characters] and that title consequently adopted by Theophrastus, Diodorus Siculus in the first book of his Biblioth..Hist, mentions the [Greek characters], and the [Greek characters] as growing spontaneously in Egypt; but he lived after Alexander's conquests."
After a patient perusal of all this learning, one feels half inclined to ask — Has the Nymphaea Nelumbo any thing to do in the question? Is not the [Greek characters] of Herodotus the broad-bean, and the [Greek characters] of Theophrastus the kidney-bean?
In 1808, under the simple Title, Disquisitions by Frank Sayers, M.D. were collected, with the single exception of an essay on English Metres, the several prose-works which had separately appeared in 1793 and 1805. They were enriched by valuable additional notes, not augmented with original lucubrations. Dr. Sayers often quoted and acted upon the maxim of Cowper, that an author cannot be too fond of correcting his own compositions; yet the file may perhaps be applied so often as to impair cohesion, and so industriously as to intercept fresh production. Who would not be content with less of polish for more of massiveness in the works of a favorite writer? Among the memorandums of Dr. Sayers, there is one relative to this publication, which runs thus: "in a future edition, to incorporate wherever practicable the notes into the text:" and in fact, notes, like the volutes of an arabesque, are apt to conceal the drift and direction of a discourse.
Of the letters returning thanks for presentation copies, only the following one seems to have been preserved:
"Inner Temple, June 3, 1808.
I return you thanks for the copy of your new book of Disquisitions, which I intend to read with attention. The subjects treated of in them seem all to be very interesting, and I expect to be both entertained and instructed by the perusal. I know but little of architecture, but I am a great admirer of the gothic style of it exhibited in our Cathedral Churches, particularly in Westminster Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral, King's College Chapel at Cambridge, and I think I may add, in our own Temple Church; and I think this style of Building preferable to the Grecian style, for the purposes of religious worship.
I am glad to find you approve my Publication of the Selecta Monumenta from the large collection of Scriptores Normanni, by Andrew Duchesne. My object was to collect together all the testimonies of the original authors, concerning that important event in English history, called the Norman Conquest which is the basis of our government and monarchy ever since, and from which all our subsequent Kings have derived their titles to the Crown. And this I hope I have accomplished by the help of the quotations from other contemporary authors, which I have inserted in the notes, which have cost me a great deal of time and pains. I hope some other lover of these historic antiquities will publish the remaining tracts of Duchesne's Collection; which might he done, I believe, ill two other volumes of the size of mine. And in this case Ordericus Vitalis might be published in one of those volumes, and Dudo de St. Quintin and Willielmus Gemmeticensis, and all other tracts in Duchesne's great folio might he published in the other. But this is what I cannot think of undertaking myself at my advanced age of seventy-seven years and a half.
Your most obedient humble Servant,
This volume of Disquisitions was dedicated to the Rev. T. F. Middleton, D.D. afterwards Prebendary of Lincoln, and in 1814, Lord Bishop of Calcutta. The intimacy between Dr. Middleton and Dr. Sayers gave occasion to the insertion of a commentary In the Quarterly Review, on the Doctrine of the Greek article, (see vol. II. p. 143) which led to a more permanent connection between that journal and Dr. Sayers, who did not, however, contribute more than one annual article until 1810, when three were supplied.
The following lively epigram, dated 1809, exists in Dr. Sayers' hand-writing among his papers: I am not aware that it has circulated, or been printed: it will diversify agreeably the character of this narrative.
Epitaph on two Chinese Astronomers, Hi and Ho, who were put to death by order of their Emperor, for getting drunk, instead of observing an Eclipse, which they were appointed to watch — the eclipse however proved to be an invisible one. See the Story in Hale's Chronology, vol. 1.
Here rest the bones of Ho and Hi,
Whose fate was sad yet risible,
Being hang'd because they did not spy,
Th' eclipse that was invisible.
Heigh ho! 'tis said a love of drink,
Occasion'd all their trouble,
But this is hardly true, I think,
For drunken folks see double.
As the thousand and one memorandums in my possession (of many there are duplicates and triplicates) appear to have been accumulating from about the year 1809; and as they chiefly consist of minute corrections, some put affirmatively, some hypothetically, in the received Text or Notes of the Poems, as printed in 1807, and of the Disquisitions as printed in 1808, which text and notes are preserved in this edition, I will here copy a few of the more remarkable among them. All have been carefully transcribed (even those which are inconsistent with each other, and record successive after-thoughts) into an interleaved copy of the works to which they relate.
A motto is provided for the title-page of the Poems, and the dedication is thus reformed:
To W. Taylor, Junior, of Norwich,
These Poems, the offering of an early and uninterrupted friendship, are dedicated by
Poems p. 4. dele "his office was that of guiding the horse of day called Skinfax, in his diurnal course; and he may therefore not improperly be called the God of the Sun."
p. 11. "Shall I omit the splendid passage?"
Thou flaming steed of day, whose golden mane
Waves in the air and pours a flood of light;
Oft have I sprung upon thy glossy back
To trace the radiant path, then mounted high,
The blue expanse of heaven, and girt with beams
Of dazzling glory wing'd my course rejoicing.
Alas how chang'd, in midnight gloom enwrapt,
The heir of splendour groans in Helas' halls.
because Balder was not god of the Sun.
Harold, who urg'd by ever restless valour
Quits his domain, and seeks the clash of arms.
p. 69. My hasty steps soon reach'd the wood I sought,
And struggling through a tangled thorny path,
I mark'd a rock, whose high, and craggy summit
Was hung with creeping shrubs—
p. 75. A weeping captive from my native land.
Several additional annotations are provided for Starno; but only one change occurs in the poetic text.
p 131. Soon shall our lips pronounce the stern decree.
In the minor poems these new readings are preferred.
p. 233. Chanting loud notes merrily—
Herald sure of summer skies—
244. If these delight not, catch the purple beam—
252. Of deathless flow'rets to surround his brows—
271. And rusty greaves, and breast plate wrought with brass.—
Some general rules occur, indicating his principles of correction — such as
"In the poems lessen epithets where I can and read words in the singular for the plural" namely, to avoid needless sibillations. — "Correct the style of my poems, making it more strong and plain throughout, omitting superfluous or too numerous epithets, as far as I can."
"Some lines are too like the places they were borrowed from — change therefore"
Tear the black leaf—
The famish'd eagle screams—
The blue mist, &c.
But the intended variations of these passages were never determined on, or have not been found.
In the Disquisitions greater changes are made, a few of the more important shall here he recorded. At the bottom of p. 12 add
"Similar changes of our opinion respecting the beauty of inanimate objects might also be easily adduced. A striking fact of the kind to which I allude, may be mentioned, that very sudden alteration which takes place in our mind, when, we are informed that a fine piece of ruins which we are contemplating is artificial. The charm is dissolved at once; the pleasing melancholy ideas vanish, and the impression which succeeds them is disgust arising from a paltry deception."
p. 132 insert this note
"Rama and Lydda were the two first cities of the Holy Land, which fell into the hands of the Christians, when the army of the Crusaders arrived. Robert of Normandy was elected bishop of Rama and Lydda, the whole army joining in thanksgiving to Saint George the Martyr, and Patron Saint of Diopolis and Rama, to whom the auspicious commencement of the enterprise was attributed. Hence probably the peculiar reverence in which St. George was held by the inhabitants of England during the early periods of its history. Clarkes' Travels, part II. p. 638."
In the Hints on English Architecture the variations, suppressions, corrections, and additions are peculiarly numerous: but cannot be intelligibly presented in a detached form.
Concerning the prose-works these general maxims occur. "Throw as much as I can out of the notes into the text of my Disquisitions." "Be sure not to repeat words in the notes which are recently used in the text." — "Make my references quite correct." "Attend more to the stopping of my works." There are seldom commas before relatives. Yet, after all, this self-counsel is also put on record. "Notwithstanding my proposed, corrections in the manuscripts herewith or elsewhere, do not alter what I think will do well, and is sufficiently correct in my works." In the sufferings of Werter, or somewhere, Goethe announces a similar sentiment, and observes, that the first impressions made by a fine writer on his reader's memory are so tenacious, that even the wisest emendations of his subsequent editions are approached with unwelcome perturbation on a second perusal.
Toward the close of the year 1812, died Mrs. Rachel Hunter, a younger sister of the mother to Dr. Sayers; he lost in her not merely a near and dear relation, but a neighbour, whom he had been much in the habit of visiting. Dr. Sayers was the executor to her will, and the foilowing character of her from his pen appeared in the Norwich newspapers of 16th December, 1812.
"On Thursday last died, in the seventy-second year of her age, Rachel the widow of John Hunter Esq. of Lisbon; she was a pious, benevolent, and amiable woman, and the well-known authoress of several Novels and Tales, which were chiefly directed to inculcate into the minds of the younger part of her sex the virtues which were so conspicuous in herself."
A few months before, Dr. Sayers had shewn a like melancholy attention to the memory of my late mother, who had been the school-fellow and much the friend, of Mrs. Hunter. He also paid a similar tribute of respect to the memory of Mrs. P. Hansell, the greater part of which was engraven on her tombstone in the cloisters of the Norwich cathedral.
1813 to 1817. — Age 50 to 55.
About this period the health of Dr. Sayers became sensibly impaired; as yet, however, his spirits bore up against the approach of illness; and I find among his papers the following epigram, dated in the autumn of 1813.
On the Managers of the Gate-house Concert in Norwich, taking money for admission to it, with the view of raising a fund for building a Concert-Room.
Amphion, as old stories tell,
Wall'd a huge city tight and well,
By gently strumming on his shell,
With now and then a crash;
Cannot your louder tweedle-dum
Raise from its base a single room?
Must you, ere bricks and mortar come,
Exchange your "notes" for cash?
The following lines were sent to Miss S— at the illumination in Norwich, on 16th June, 1814.
Louisa haste, above, beneath,
The festive garland twine;
Not Flora's hand could bend the wreath,
More skilfully than thine.
And when at close of lingering day,
Their blaze the tapers pour;
O! seat thee midst those garlands gay,
Thyself the fairest flower.
In the same year, I believe, was composed this livelier jeu d' esprit, respecting a metrical chronology, which has the singular merit of teaching a correct accentuation of rare proper names.
Lines addressed to Hudson Gurney Esq. on his giving me a learned little work, written by himself, bound in red leather.
Accept my best thanks for the little red book,
With delight and amaze on the pages I look,
And, if I can prevent it, it ne'er shall be said,
That the little red book was a book little read.
To Mr. Hudson Gurney Dr. Sayers was strongly attached, and valued in him not merely high accomplishments of mind, a conversation rich with the spoils of time and place, and a disinterested patriotism, but a kindness of heart overflowing with the wish to serve. and a generosity magnificent as his means.
The Rev. Mr. Walpole, of Tivetshall, was also assiduously attentive to the latter years of Dr. Sayers, to whom he was allied by kindred studies; his poly-glottic acquirements, and his classical investigations of the remaining monuments of greek antiquity, have acquired a permanent rank among the literary trophies of his country.
The declension of Dr. Sayers' health at first announced itself by vertigo, for which he often underwent the operation of cupping; afterwards he incurred a paralytic shock, which altered his gait, and rendered it inconvenient for him to be stopped in the street; one of his arms too was somewhat affected, and he could no longer feed himself with entire dexterity. Dr. Reeve who had settled in Norwich, in 1806, and who was become very intimate with Dr. Sayers, attended him sedulously. His society consoled, his prescriptions alleviated, these afflictions; but it gradually became apparent that a complete recovery was improbable.
In 1814, Dr. Reeve died; and the following tribute to his memory was inserted in the Norwich Mercury, of October 1st, by Dr. Sayers.
"On the 27th of September died, aged 34, at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, Henry Reeve, M.D. Member of the Royal College of Physicians, at London, and F.L.S. and one of the physicians to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, to Bethel, and to the Lunatic Asylum.
"After a steady application to his profession, for several of his earlier years, he graduated at Edinburgh, in 1803; continued his studies at London, and visited the continent with the view of improving himself in the science of medicine, to which he was warmly devoted. His exertions were most successful; for besides his acquisitions in classical and other literature, he became well versed in the primary object of his pursuit, and was far from a mean proficient in the collateral studies of Chemistry, and Natural History.
"In 1806 he fixed at Norwich; in 1809 he published a short but instructive Essay on the Torpidity of Animals; and in 1811 he delivered with great credit to himself, a course of Physiological Lectures, portions of which his kindness had previously prompted him to communicate, at stated periods, to an audience of the young students of physic in this city.
"The talents and acquirements of Dr. Reeve were rewarded by a practice, which was quickly increasing, till the unfortunate period, at which he was incapacitated for attending to it, by the lingering and painful disease, which finally terminated his existence. Against this he long struggled not only with fortitude and hope, but with a vivacity truly remarkable, and he uniformly appeared to be the least oppressed by it, when he was called upon to contribute to the relief of others.
"He had the satisfaction of finding for several years, that this kind attention and professional skill were highly valued by those who received his aid; and the regret excited by the loss of him is deeply felt and widely extended. His duties in private life were no less happily discharged than those of his profession; his mind was open, generous, lively, simple, and affectionate; and those, to whom he was united as a relative or a friend., will ever turn with melancholy complacence to the remembrance of his faithful and active attachment, of his cheering conversation, and of his pleasing and valuable accomplishments."
A monument was erected in the Octagon Chapel, at Norwich, to the memory of Dr. Reeve, with the following inscription composed by Dr. Sayers:
HENRICI REEVE M.D.
SCIENTIA INGENIO VIRTUTE
ET MORIBUS GRATISSIMIS
QUI ARTEM SUAIM IN HAC URBE
DONEC ACRI MORBO DIUTURNO QUE
ALIORUM TAMEN COMMODIS
NIHILO SEGNIUS INSERVIENS
V ID SEPTEMBER
ANNO CHRIST M DCCC XIIII
SUSANNA CONJUX EJUS
H M HONORAR P C
Below the epitaph of Dr. Reeve was engraven this postscript.
SUSANNA ET WALLACE SUBOLES HENRICI
REEVE ET SUSANNAE UXORIS. SUAE
IMMATURA MORTE SUBLATI IN
HUJUS SACELLI SEPULCRETO TUMULANTUR
This tablet was put up in October, 1816, but the inscription must have been furnished several months before. I believe it to have been the last literary effort of Dr. Sayers; and it was worthy of a life, so much lived to piety and friendship, to be consecrating to them its latest exertions.
After the decease of Dr. Reeve, the present Dr. Wright became the medical adviser of Dr. Sayers, and continued attending him until death. His latter months were grievously afflicted with hypocondriasis; the form which this disease assumed in him was an excessive anxiety about the future condition of his soul. He, so much superior in every christian virtue, not merely to the average bulk of mankind, but to most of the excellently wise and good, was prepared to approach the throne of grace but with trembling hope and fearful humility. Mr. James Sayers, and his sister, came from London to offer the last attentions to their admired and beloved relation. He died 16th of August, 1817.
The executors to his will were James Sayers, Esq. his nearest kinsman and principal heir; Edward Booth, Esq. an eminent merchant and magistrate of Norwich, who had for several years, in a most friendly manner, managed the pecuniary concerns of Dr. Sayers; and myself, to whom the literary papers were bequeathed. To the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital £100, to the Philanthropic Society £100, to the Society for the Benefit of Decayed Tradesman £100, to the Asylum for the Blind £50, to the Dispensary £50, to the Benevolent Medical Society £50, beside some smaller donations to the Friendly Society, and to the poor of the parish, were distributed conformably to the provisions of his Will. His collection of books was bequeathed to the library belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Norwich; that repository was in consequence enlarged, a bibliothecary appointed, and a more liberal access conceded to the public.
The funeral took place on the 23d of August, and the service was read by the Rev. Edward South Thurlow. The residence of Dr. Sayers being contiguous to the great church, the body was accompanied to the grave by a numerous and respectable train of mourners on foot, and was deposited in the same vault, which had been built for his mother's remains in the south aisle of the cathedral. If learning, genius, intellect, are to confer immortality on earth, it is his; if virtue, faith, suffering, are to confer it in heaven, it is his also.
A mural monument has been erected to his memory in the cathedral of Norwich, near the place of interment, by the order and at the expence of Mr. James Sayers. The inscription, composed by the Rev. Francis Howes, is thus worded, and is beautifully appropriate.
VIRI MULTIS NOMINIBUS DILECTI DESIDERATIQUE
FRANK SAYERS M D
IN QUO INGENIO ACRI JUDICIUM PAR ACCESSERAT
INERAT IN SERMONE EJUS INNOCUUS GRAVITATE CONDITUS LEPOS
LITERIS DEDITUS AB INSOLENTI ASPERITATE PRORSUS ABHORREBAT
UT DOCTRINAE COPIAM MORUM LIBERALITAS AEQUARET
VIXIT MODERATUS PROBUS PIUS SIMPLEX
IN PAUPERES PRO FACULTATIBUS LARGUS
IN AMICOS COMIS BENEVOLUS IN OMNES
PROFECTUS EJUS QUALES ESSENT
CIRCA ARCHAEOLOGIAM HISTORIAM PHILOSOPHIAM POESIN
QUAE SCRIPSIT TESTANTUR
QUALIS IPSE SUPERSTITUM LACRYMAE
OBIIT VI DIE AUG AN DOM AETATIS SUAE LV
Mr. Hudson Gurney aspired to the honor of erecting this monument; he observed to the executors that, as Dr. Sayers had given the residue of his estate to charitable purposes, a reluctance would be felt to diminish it by needless expenditure, and that he should willingly defray the charge of this final memorial. But Mr. Sayers has insisted on his own right to discharge this pious duty.
Why slowly tolls yon melancholy bell?
Why at this pillared porch awaits a bier?
At every threshold, where the living dwell,
Death some day stops, and now has enter'd here.
Beneath the sweeping sable pall half-hid
The blazon'd ark of burial dimly glares;
And on the ponderous coffin's oaken lid
A marble tablet tells the name of SAYERS.
Ah what avail'd the form of hero-mold,
The heart that bled for every human wo,
The mind where learning all her stores unroll'd,
Where fancy shone in beamy roseate glow?
Still is the hand that wak'd the living lyre,
The soothing tongue of eloquence is hush'd;
Chill is the swimming eye, the soul of fire,
And all the flowery bloom of genius crush'd.
And must we now, athwart our tears, behold
For the last time, thou dear departed friend,
Those noble features, pallid, lifeless, cold,
So much rever'd, belov'd — so soon to end?
Along the whisp'ring lindel-shaded way,
Toward the cathedral's mist-encircled spire,
Through vaulted cloisters dim with twilight day,
The bearers slowly seek the holy choir.
Silent and sad his old companions spread
In mournful pairs behind the funeral trains,
And to the mansions of the honour'd dead,
Pursue with pious grief his last remains.
Then o'er his closing grave they bend resign'd,
Till holy lips his sacred ashes blest,
To earth and kindred dust his dust consign'd,
Henceforth beside a parent's urn to rest.
Oft, when the holy doors unfold, be it mine
To ponder here the inevitable doom;
A frequent pilgrim at thy sacred shrine,
A constant mourner o'er thine early tomb.
Ne'er to this grave-subtending, stately, vault,
Where sleep the great, the brave, the wise, the good,
Arrived a guest with purer merit fraught,
A worthier inmate of the dread abode.
Greet your new comrade, spirits of the blest,
Bend from your sepulchres, ye sainted sires,
With the bright crown of beams his brows invest,
And, guide him circling to the heavenly quires.
Three angel-forms attend his shining way:
Faith marshals foremost to the realms of light;
Hope spreads her Wings with rainbow-radiance gay;
And Charity sustains the glorious flight.
Eternal tenant of the starry sphere,
Though earthly cares no more thy thoughts confine,
May the fond memory of thy virtues here,
Teach me to live a being worthy thine